By Enyichukwu Enemanna
Asim Ghafoor, an American citizen and former lawyer of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist who was killed at Saudi Arabia’s Consulate in Istanbul in 2018, has been sentenced to three years in prison in UAE over charges bordering on money laundering and tax evasion.
The Abu Dhabi Money Laundering Court also ordered the lawyer to pay a fine of $816,748 over his absentia conviction, the UAE’s state-run WAM news agency reported late Saturday.
UAE’s state-owned newspaper, The National, reports that he would be deported to the U.S. after completing his sentence.
The UAE says Ghafoor’s arrest is a coordinated move with the US to “combat transnational crimes.”
Emirati state-run media said American authorities had requested the UAE’s help with an investigation into Ghafoor’s alleged tax evasion and suspicious money transfers in the Emirates.
The autocratic Gulf Arab sheikhdom announced the prison sentence a day after Washington-based human rights watchdog Democracy for the Arab World Now, DAWN, raised alarm about Ghafoor’s arrest from Dubai International Airport.
DAWN said that its board member, a civil rights attorney based in Virginia who had represented Khashoggi and his fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, was in transit to Istanbul on Thursday to attend a wedding when plainclothes Emirati security agents scooped him up and sent him to an Abu Dhabi detention facility before he could change planes.
Ghafoor had no knowledge of any case against him and had transited through Dubai without incident less than a year ago, DAWN said.
The US Embassy in Abu Dhabi did not immediately respond to a request for comment.