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Thomas Barrack Arrested, Charged With Illegal Lobbying

Colony Capital founder Thomas Barrack

Thomas Barrack, founder of private equity real estate owner Colony Capital and longtime close friend of former President Donald Trump, has been indicted on federal charges.

Barrack was arrested in California and has been charged with seven federal crimes related to lobbying on behalf of the United Arab Emirates without disclosing his relationship, according to the indictment unsealed on Tuesday. Barrack was charged along with Matthew Grimes, a former executive at Colony Capital, and Emirati businessman Rashid Sultan Rashid Al Malik Alshahhi.

The indictment also alleges that Barrack lied to federal investigators when interviewed about his relationship to UAE leadership in 2019. Barrack chaired Trump's presidential inauguration committee and was in frequent contact with Trump over the course of his presidency, The Washington Post reports. Barrack resigned as Colony Capital CEO last year and as executive chairman in April, CNBC reports.

In early 2019, at around the same time federal investigators issued a subpoena to the inauguration committee, WNYC and ProPublica obtained an internal Colony Capital memo indicating plans to establish the company as a key link in diplomatic relations with the Middle East "while avoiding any appearance of lobbying,” the memo read.

Barrack's friendship with Trump was controversial enough for a minority shareholder in Colony to call for his ouster soon after he met with federal officials. The relationship also gave him access to nonpublic information about the reaction high-level federal government officials had to a meeting with UAE dignitaries — information that he then allegedly passed along to the UAE government. 

The UAE's sovereign wealth fund, Mubadala Investment Co., combined with Saudi Arabia's sovereign fund to invest $447M in Colony Capital from July 2016 to mid-2019, The New York Times reports. Colony's most recent SEC filing showed that Barrack still owns 10% of the company and retains a seat on the board of directors.

Grimes was arrested along with Barrack, and both were scheduled to make their initial appearance before a federal magistrate judge in California Tuesday afternoon, according to the Justice Department announcement of the indictment. Rashid Al Malik was still at large as of Tuesday afternoon.