- The special counsel Robert Mueller has reportedly learned of several other meetings in the Seychelles that took place around the same time as one between an informal Trump campaign adviser, the Emirati crown prince, and a Russian investor linked to President Vladimir Putin.
- The development comes as Mueller broadens his focus to examine whether foreign governments sought to influence the platforms of President Donald Trump’s campaign or administration.
- According to NJ Advance Media, wealthy officials from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Singapore landed at the Seychelles around the same time as officials representing the US, Russia, and the UAE.
The special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 US election has expanded to focus on several previously unreported meetings that took place in the Seychelles islands, NJ Advance Media reported on Tuesday.
The meetings are said to have occurred around the same time as one between an associate of President Donald Trump, Emirati officials, and a Russian hedge fund manager linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
According to NJ Advance Media, several others connected to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Singapore flew to the island in January 2017. In one instance, a plane linked to the former Saudi deputy minister of defense reportedly arrived on the island.
Kazakh billionaire Alexander Mashkevich is also said to have been at the Seychelles around that time. Mashkevich is listed as a strategic investor in real-estate projects associated with the firm Bayrock, which has drawn scrutiny over its troubled history and connection to the Russian-born businessman and Trump associate Felix Sater.
Also on the island was Sheikh Abdulrahman Khalid Bin Mahfouz, the son of an influential Saudi billionaire, according to NJ Advance Media.
What happened in the Seychelles?
The special counsel has broadened his investigative focus in recent months to examine whether foreign governments tried used the Trump campaign or administration to peddle influence and push policies favorable to them.
The Seychelles meeting between Erik Prince, Kirill Dmitriev, and George Nader is one of several events Mueller is eyeing.
Prince was an informal adviser to Trump’s transition team, Dmitriev is a former Goldman Sachs banker who runs a state-run foreign investment fund on Putin’s behalf, and Nader is a Lebanese-American businessman who was there representing Emirati Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
Prince denied that he attended the meeting as an official representative of the incoming administration, telling the US House Intelligence Committee last year that he traveled to the Seychelles to meet with potential business customers from the UAE.
During the meeting, Prince told lawmakers on the panel, the customers “mentioned a guy who I should also meet who was also in town,” who turned out to be Dmitriev.
When he met Dmitriev, they discussed a range of topics, and Dmitriev stressed that he wished Russia and the US could resume normal trade relations, Prince said.
Prince said he knew Dmitriev was a Russian fund manager but did not know it was a sanctioned fund that the Russian government controlled.
Yet Nader reportedly testified that Prince knew the meeting was part of an effort to set up a backchannel between Moscow and Washington under the Trump administration. UAE officials are said to have participated in the hopes of encouraging Russia to distance itself from Iran, a major Kremlin ally and UAE rival.
Another layer emerged when The New York Times reported on a trove of emails between Nader and Elliott Broidy, the deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee, who is close to Trump.
The two men pushed the White House to oust Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and adopt an aggressive approach toward Iran and Qatar, according to The Times. They also reportedly asked Trump to meet with the Emirati leader outside the White House.
Trump fired Tillerson last month, and the Trump administration has taken a tough stance toward both Qatar and Iran since last year. The Trump administration has also pushed hard to scrap the US’s nuclear deal with Iran.
Meanwhile, Qatari officials claim they have evidence that the UAE exerted undue pressure on Trump’s staff, including Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, as well as other White House officials, through a series of secret meetings and business negotiations.
Moreover, according to the Associated Press, the UAE sought to gain additional influence within the US via a massive, shadowy money transfer last year.
Michal Kranz contributed reporting.