U.S. Attorney Announces Charges Against Co-Director Of Think Tank For Acting As An Unregistered Foreign Agent, Trafficking In Arms, Violating U.S. Sanctions Against Iran, And Making False Statements To Federal Agents

July 10, 2023

Gal Luft, a Dual U.S.-Israeli Citizen, Allegedly Evaded FARA Registration While Working to Advance the Interests of China in the United States and Sought to Broker the Illicit Sales of Chinese-Manufactured Weapons and Iranian Oil to China

Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Matthew G. Olsen, the Assistant Attorney General for National Security, and Christie M. Curtis, the Acting Assistant Director in Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced today the unsealing of an eight-count Indictment charging GAL LUFT with offenses related to willfully failing to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”), arms trafficking, Iranian sanctions violations, and making false statements to federal agents.  LUFT, a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen, was arrested on February 17, 2023, in the Republic of Cyprus based on the charges in the Indictment.  LUFT subsequently fled after being released on bail while extradition proceedings were pending and remains a fugitive.

FBI Acting Assistant Director in Charge Christie M. Curtis said: “As alleged, the defendant engaged in multiple schemes to evade sanctions and laws intended to protect our national security.   The FBI is determined to defend our nation by enforcing laws designed to promote transparency of foreign influence within the United States.”

According to the allegations contained in the Indictment, other filings, public information, and statements made during court proceedings:

For years, LUFT, a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen who serves as the co-director of a Maryland-based think tank, engaged, along with others, in multiple international criminal schemes.


Third, LUFT conspired with others and attempted to broker deals for Iranian oil – which he directed an associate to refer to as “Brazilian” oil in an effort to conceal the activity and evade sanctions – in violation of U.S. sanctions against Iran and the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.  In his role as a broker or middleman, LUFT solicited buyers and passed on pricing and other information.  One offer letter for Iranian oil that LUFT received noted that the “origin” of the oil was “Iranian / It can be presented as UAE origin without Iranian papers.”  He also assisted in setting up meetings between Iranian representatives and a Chinese energy company for the purpose of discussing oil deals.  During a voluntary interview with U.S. law enforcement in which he was asked about his role brokering deals in Iranian oil, LUFT made multiple false statements, including that he had tried to prevent oil deals with Iran and had not been present during meetings with the Chinese energy company and Iranians.

LUFT, 57, a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen who formerly resided in both Maryland and Israel and is now a fugitive, has been charged with the following offenses, which carry the maximum prison terms listed below.  The statutory maximum penalties are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant would be determined by a judge.