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Steve Bannon was target of Qatari bribery plot to get to Trump

  • Rapper Ice Cube claims that he and his basketball league BIG3 were targeted by Qatari investors who wanted to use it to reach Steve Bannon
  • He and his co-CEO Jeff Kwatinetz claim that Qatari Ahmed al Rumaihi agreed to invest $20.5 million but only paid $7.5 m
  • Kwatinetz has made a legal statement saying that the Qatari plans were 'more about perceived influence in America' because he and Bannon were friends 
  • The Qatari investor repeatedly asked about meeting Bannon before he was fired from his job as Donald Trump's chief strategist in the White House
  • And this year when Bannon left Breitbart and lost his backing from hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer, the Qatari offered to underwrite his political efforts
  • Kwatinetz says Qatari investor wanted to meet Bannon to tell him the government of Qatar wanted to underwrite all his campaigning
  • Kwatinetz turned him down but investor accused him of being naive and said: 'Do you think Flynn turned down our money?'
  • Qatari investor Ahmed al Rumaihi claims to be acting on his own but is actually a member of the royal family who said the 'emir was like his brother', claims suit

By Ryan Parry West Coast Correspondent For Dailymail.com And Josh Boswell For Dailymail.com

Published: 17:50 EDT, 9 May 2018 | Updated: 19:48 EDT, 9 May 2018

Donald Trump's former chief strategist Steve Bannon was the target of a bizarre bribery plot by the Qatari government, rapper Ice Cube and his business partner have claimed in a lawsuit, DailyMail.com can disclose.

The rapper and Jeff Kwatinetz claim that a Qatari investor in their BIG3 basketball league tried to get access to Bannon when he was Trump's White House chief strategist - and that the investor was a front for the Qatari government.

Kwatinetz and Bannon had worked together in the past and remain 'friends', he said in legal papers.

And Kwatinetz claims that after Bannon had been fired by Trump and left his Breitbart website, the Qatari wanted to set up a meeting with him to offer to 'underwrite all of his political efforts in return for his support'.

The suit claims that the Qatari, Ahmed al Rumaihi, also boasted about bribing several 'Washington politicians', including Michael Flynn, Trump's former National Security Advisor who is now a convicted felon.

The bombshell claims were made in a declaration as part of a $1.2bn lawsuit filed last month by rapper Ice Cube and his business partner, the founders of basketball league BIG3, against multiple Qatari investors.

Target: Ice Cube and his BIG3 co-CEO claim Qatar used an investment in their league to try to get access to Steve Bannon when he worked for Donald Trump, then to bribe him after he had been fired from the White House
Target: Ice Cube and his BIG3 co-CEO claim Qatar used an investment in their league to try to get access to Steve Bannon when he worked for Donald Trump, then to bribe him after he had been fired from the White House

Target: Ice Cube and his BIG3 co-CEO claim Qatar used an investment in their league to try to get access to Steve Bannon when he worked for Donald Trump, then to bribe him after he had been fired from the White House

Big names: Ice Cube (center) and Jeff Kwatinetz (right) set up BIG3 and have Clyde Drexler as Commissioner along with other Hall of Famers involved. Kwatinetz worked for two years with Bannon and still considers him a friend despite differing political views
Big names: Ice Cube (center) and Jeff Kwatinetz (right) set up BIG3 and have Clyde Drexler as Commissioner along with other Hall of Famers involved. Kwatinetz worked for two years with Bannon and still considers him a friend despite differing political views

Big names: Ice Cube (center) and Jeff Kwatinetz (right) set up BIG3 and have Clyde Drexler as Commissioner along with other Hall of Famers involved. Kwatinetz worked for two years with Bannon and still considers him a friend despite differing political views

Bribery claims: In court documents, BIG3 CEO and friend of Steve Bannon Jeff Kwatinetz claims that Mohammed al Rumaih wanted to use him to tell Bannon that the Qatari government would pay for his political activities. When Kwatinetz turned him down, the Qatari investor said: 'Do you think [Michael] Flynn (pictured) turned down our money?'
Bribery claims: In court documents, BIG3 CEO and friend of Steve Bannon Jeff Kwatinetz claims that Mohammed al Rumaih wanted to use him to tell Bannon that the Qatari government would pay for his political activities. When Kwatinetz turned him down, the Qatari investor said: 'Do you think [Michael] Flynn (pictured) turned down our money?'
Bribery claims: In court documents, BIG3 CEO and friend of Steve Bannon Jeff Kwatinetz claims that Mohammed al Rumaih wanted to use him to tell Bannon that the Qatari government would pay for his political activities. When Kwatinetz turned him down, the Qatari investor said: 'Do you think [Michael] Flynn (pictured) turned down our money?'
Bribery claims: In court documents, BIG3 CEO and friend of Steve Bannon Jeff Kwatinetz claims that Mohammed al Rumaih wanted to use him to tell Bannon that the Qatari government would pay for his political activities. When Kwatinetz turned him down, the Qatari investor said: 'Do you think [Michael] Flynn (pictured) turned down our money?'

Bribery claims: In court documents, BIG3 CEO and friend of Steve Bannon Jeff Kwatinetz claims that Mohammed al Rumaih wanted to use him to tell Bannon that the Qatari government would pay for his political activities. When Kwatinetz turned him down, the Qatari investor said: 'Do you think [Michael] Flynn turned down our money?'

The basketball businessmen claim the Qataris failed to follow through on promises to invest millions of dollars in the league. Kwatinetz and Ice Cube are represented in the lawsuit by leading Los Angeles civil rights attorney Mark Geragos.

They claim that the Qataris, al Rumaihi and Ayman Sabi, signed an agreement to invest a total $20.5m in BIG3 saying they were on the board of Qatar Investments, the country's sovereign investment vehicle in the U.S. 

But they only paid $7.5m, making excuses and dodging calls when the founders asked for their money.

Ice Cube, whose real name is O'Shea Jackson, and Kwatinetz, allege in their lawsuit that the Qataris' real aim was 'to get positive public relations for Qatar' and 'about perceived influence in America'.

The court documents, filed in Los Angeles, name defendants Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Saud al Thani, the CEO of the Qatari Investment Authority; al Rumaihi, a former Qatari diplomat and - the rapper and his partner say - a member of the royal family; and two other men linked to the Qatari royal family.

In a declaration filed with his lawsuit, lodged in court in Los Angeles on Tuesday, Kwatinetz claims that al Rumaihi saw an opportunity when he found out Kwatinetz was 'friends' with Trump's former aide Bannon.

Kwatinetz is close to the former Trump advisor, after being in business with Bannon for two years in TV production company The Firm. 

Despite describing himself as a 'liberal' in interviews, Kwatinetz publicly pledged his support for Bannon, defended him against claims of racism and describing him as 'brilliant' businessman and a 'great character'. In the court papers he calls Bannon a friend.

Kwatinetz claims that in June, July and August last year, after making a partial payment of the promised $20.5m, al Rumaihi repeatedly raised Bannon's name and 'persistently inquired about wanting to meet with Mr. Bannon', who was then Trump's chief strategist.

He also asked about the Trump administration's views of a blockade on Qatar, which was put in place by other Arab countries in June 2017 over claims it is a backer of terrorism.

Bannon was fired at the end of August 2017 and in January 2017 suffered further difficulty when the explosive Fire and Fury book by Michael Wolff was published and in the fallout from it he left has right-wing website Breitbart and Robert Mercer, the hedge fund billionaire who was funding his campaigning, withdrew his support. 

Kwatinetz claims al Rumaihi asked him to set up a meeting with Bannon so that the Qatari could 'convey a message from the Qatari Government to Steve Bannon'.

'Mr. Al-Rumaihi requested I set up a meeting between him, the Qatari government, and Steven Bannon, and to tell Steve Bannon that Qatar would underwrite all of his political efforts in return for his support,' Kwatinetz said.

Kwatinetz said in the court document that he was 'appalled' at the idea of 'a bribe of any kind', declined the offer immediately and did not tell Bannon about it.

The court document says: 'Mr. Al-Rumahi laughed and then stated to me that I shouldn't be naive, that so many Washington politicians take our money, and stated 'do you think [Michael] Flynn turned down our money?''

Flynn was Trump's first National Security Advisor, was fired for lying to Mike Pence about his contact with Russians and is now a felon after making a plea deal with Robert Mueller's special counsel probe in which he pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

Explosive claims: Jeff Kwatinetz's claims about Bannon and how the Qatari investor Mohammed al Rumaihi wanted to target him
Explosive claims: Jeff Kwatinetz's claims about Bannon and how the Qatari investor Mohammed al Rumaihi wanted to target him

Explosive claims: Jeff Kwatinetz's claims about Bannon and how the Qatari investor Mohammed al Rumaihi wanted to target him

Big case: Rapper Ice Cube and his co-CEO are suing the Qatari investors for $1.2 billion. They are counter-suing claiming libel and demanding the case be moved to a federal court
Big case: Rapper Ice Cube and his co-CEO are suing the Qatari investors for $1.2 billion. They are counter-suing claiming libel and demanding the case be moved to a federal court

Big case: Rapper Ice Cube and his co-CEO are suing the Qatari investors for $1.2 billion. They are counter-suing claiming libel and demanding the case be moved to a federal court

Al Rumaihi is a former diplomat for the Gulf state, and according to the lawsuit, one of the heads of Qatar Investments, a Qatari government vehicle set up to invest in the US.

The businessman, who currently lives in Los Angeles, also retained a DC lobbying group for $2.5m on behalf of the Qatari government, US government documents show.

Ashcroft Law Firm LLC, run by former US Attorney General John Ashcroft, declared in June last year that they had a contract with the Qatari government, represented by al Rumaihi.

In documents filed under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, the lobbying firm said the deal included 'crisis response', 'media outreach' and 'advocacy' for the Qataris.

The deal is led by Ashcroft, and states it will 'enlist the support and expertise of former key government leaders' including former senior officials in the intelligence community, FBI, Treasury and Homeland Security.

BIG3 say that the Qatari government has tried to deny that al Rumaihi works for them, but in their court papers the rapper and his partner say that he actually boasted that the Emir of Qatar was 'like a borther'

The BIG3 founders claim that despite spending millions on a lobbying deal and allegedly spending cash on gambling and houses, the Qataris repeatedly dodged their requests for money under their basketball funding agreement.

They allege that al Rumaihi lost over $700,000 'in a few hours of gambling' after the BIG3 championship in Las Vegas last August, and spent vast sums renting two mansions in Venice Beach and Beverly Hills, Los Angeles.

The BIG3 businessmen allege that their Qatari partners treated BIG3 employees to 'trips to St. Tropez and Ibiza, parties on Yachts, expensive meals, use of an $800,000 Bentley, invitations to parties at their Los Angeles mansions,' to garner influence in the company.

Ice Cube and Kwatinetz say that the Qataris set up a Delaware company, Sport Trinity LLC, and through the company they agreed pay $11.5m up front to BIG3 in July last year, plus an additional $9m in sponsorship money over three years, in exchange for a 'passive, minority stake' in BIG3.

However, the Gulf royals only paid $6.5m up front, with a further $1m in December 2017, the lawsuit claims.

The Qataris claimed the money was 'on its way', but in text messages they dodged questions over the payments, making a variety of unusual excuses, the plaintiffs say.

When Kwatinetz tried to set up a meeting with al Rumaihi in December, he sent Kwatinetz a picture of his teeth at the dentist, according to screenshots of text messages in the court complaint.

The texts show that on February 2, 2018, Kwatinetz texted al Rumaihi that he was 'disappointed' over his failure to pay. The Qatari texted back at 2:36pm that he 'literally just woke up. My sinuses are so bad…'

Kwatinetz texted him the next day demanding to 'hear from you immediately'. Al Rumaihi told Kwatinetz he was 'hiking' and going to get ready for a basketball player's memorial.

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