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Turkish defense company revamps lobbying; Mauritius offers US 99-year lease on Diego Garcia base; law firm for 1 MDB fugitive paid $2 million for PR: Wednesday’s Daily Digest

Turkish defense company revamps lobbying as US sanctions loom

T129 ATAK helicopter / Turkish Aerospace Industries

A major Turkish arms contractor is revamping its lobbying operations amid a growing number of threats from Washington.

Capitol Counsel, formerly a subcontractor to Greenberg Traurig, is now lobbying directly for Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI).

The firm is tasked with helping TAI overcome congressional impediments to its ability to export its attack helicopters to Pakistan. But now new State Department sanctions on the Turkish defense sector could further complicate that effort.

Read the story here.


New lobbying filings

Africa

Mauritius: Former US ambassador to Germany Richard Burt and his Washington advocacy firm McLarty Inbound received $175,000 from the government of Mauritius in the six months through November to press the east African country’s claims on the British-controlled Chagos archipelago. The group of 60 tropical islands includes the US Navy base at Diego Garcia. The firm notably helped organize a June 24 virtual roundtable hosted by the Center for the National Interest, a Washington think-tank. Mauritius’ envoy to the UN, Jagdish Koonjul, told the panel that the country was willing to negotiate a 99-year lease with the US for Diego Garcia if its sovereignty claims are resolved. McLarty has represented Mauritius since May 2019.

The United States has leased Diego Garcia from Britain since 1966 in a secret deal signed after the British separated the Chagos islands ahead of Mauritius’ looming independence and exiled its inhabitants. The lease was extended in 2016 for another 20 years, until 2036. That agreement is now in jeopardy after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague issued an advisory opining in February 2019 urging an end to British control over the territory. The UN General Assembly subsequently passed a resolution calling on the United Kingdom to withdraw its colonial administration from the area by the end of 2019 (the United States voted against).

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Asia

Malaysia (Jho Low): International law firm Kobre & Kim received $2 million from Thai businessman Phengphian Laogumnerd for its public relations services to fugitive financier Jho Low during the six months through October. That brings the total to $5.4 million since the firm registered as a foreign agent for Low in October 2018. During the latest period the firm in turn disbursed more than $300,000 to a bevy of subcontractors:

  • Five Blocks Inc. (digital search strategies): $87,000
  • Schillings International LLP (not including legal services): $73,000 (Schillings reported a lower total of just $55,000 in its own filing for the period);
  • Wells Haslem Mayhew Strategic Public Affairs (public relations); $63,000 (the Australia firm has stopped representing Low as of Dec. 1.);
  • The PHA Group (public relations): $60,000;
  • Regroup Media UK Limited (digital search strategies and analytics): $15,500
  • Newell PR Ltd. (public relations): $11,000.

Kobre & Kim’s previous six-month filing indicated that the firm was also receiving payment from a Kuwaiti royal, believed to be Sheikh Sabah al-Jaber al-Mubarak al-Hamad Al Sabah, the son of former Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber al-Mubarak al-Hamad Al Sabah. This filing contains no reference to a Sheihk Al Sabah, however. Low is wanted by US authorities for allegedly embezzling $4.5 billion from Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB. He reportedly now lives in China.

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Japan: The Embassy of Japan paid RSC Services International of Florida $143,000 in the six months through November. The firm is owned by Raymond Calamaro, a former deputy assistant attorney general under President Jimmy Carter and 1992 transition team leader for President Bill Clinton. Calamaro advises the embassy on “general diplomatic matters, policies, proposed congressional measures, treaties and other international agreements, and actions by the US Congress, executive branch, US government agencies and certain state and local governments.” These include policy matters relating to World War II and trade-related matters.

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Europe

Belgium: The Tourist Office for Flanders in New York received $175,000 from the Flanders Tourism Board during the six months through November to promote the Belgian region as a tourism and conference destination.

Poland: Former NASA Director for Export Control and Interagency Liaison John F. Hall has registered as an employee of the Polish Space Agency (PSA) after previously serving as a consultant for the agency since leaving NASA in 2017. Hall, who now lives in Poland, was paid $24,000 by the agency in the second half of the year to provide “lectures and public presentations on space activities” in Poland.

Russia: US operator Reston Translator received $180,000 from Russia’s state-run Rossiya Segodnya news agency in the six months through November to carry its Sputnik radio programming in the Washington, DC area.

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Middle East

United Arab Emirates: The Glover Park Group terminated its short-term, $35,000 contract to survey US public opinion for the UAE Embassy in Washington on Aug. 1, according to a new lobbying filing. The work ended just two weeks before the White House announced that the UAE was establishing diplomatic ties with Israel.

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