SCOOP re Trump allies' conflicts of interests in Golan Heights oil
Investigation by Wendy Dent has uncovered multiple investments tied to 8 Trump allies in Genie Energy, a Murdoch-backed energy subsidiary which struck oil in disputed territory on Israel's frontier with Syria, as well as ties to Cambridge analytica data contracts on ISIS/Syria. Its parent company IDT has been investigated for RICO violations, fined by the SEC and sued for bribery of a president under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Rupert Murdoch is a board member. Kushner's Middle east peace envoy Jason Greenblatt, White House advisor Ira Greenstein, James Woolsley, Steve Bannon, Rob Mercer, Jay Clayton, and Michael Glassner also have ties to the company, and Jared Kushner is a family friend of its founder.
The firm was granted an exclusive license from Netanyahu's government to drill in territory Israel annexed from Syria in the name of the war with ISIS, in spite of opposition from the Obama administration and UN. Netanyahu has sought help from Putin and Trump in defending the oil rich territory as a "red line" of their rule.
Genie Energy is a small company with big potential, politically. In Oct 2015 the little known Newark-based firm struck "black gold" in the disputed territory on Israel's frontier with Syria. The estimated 40 billion barrels of oil it began drilling, under its exclusive exploratory license granted by Netanyahu's government, was estimated to be worth as much as 150 billion. In just 3 days, from November 8 to 11, 2016, its shares skyrocketed a record 25.6%, after Trump’s US election win.
Genie’s ‘strategic advisory board’ - who hold a minority interest - includes Rupert Murdoch, Jacob Rothschild, billionaire Michael Steinhardt (“wall street’s greatest trader"- now accused of sexual harassment), Dick Cheney, former US senator Mary Landrieu, former Clinton/Obama Secretary of the Treasury Larry Summers, former Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, as well as former CIA director/Trump transition team member James Woolsley.
Ira Greenstein was President of Genie Energy and Chairman of IDT. Until March 2018 he was Deputy Assistant to the President and Strategist at the White House, working under Kushner for 155,000 per annum, in the basement of the West Wing, as part of “the Kushner swat team”. Given his work with Kushner (who is Middle East peace envoy), the Golan territory being drilled by his firm likely fell under his portfolio.
Greenstein’s white house disclosure states he resigned from Genie in January 2017 (at inauguration) though Bloomberg notes he served as president until May 2017.
Greenstein held stock in Genie and IDT, Genie’s parent company, and though he resigned from his position, his disclosures show IDT shares which SEC records show he have not been divested.
Michael Glassner, national political director for Trump since 2015, now running trump's 2020 presidential campaign and under inquiry, was head of media relations for IDT. His stake in the company is not disclosed as his position is as executive director of "Trump for president LLC" and not officially under the White House. Trump’s 2020 Campaign under scrutiny for its payment of Don Jr’s lawyers from charitable donations- misuse of donated funds.
A TANGLE OF SHAREHOLDERS
Trump chose as a Middle East peace envoy a man with a little known Israeli investment. Jason Greenblatt, Trump Organization’s legal counsel- turned-White House advisor on international negotiations, holds shares in Genie. The detail from his disclosure form has not been previously reported. The detail was overlooked, while more attention was focused on Greenblatt’s meeting with a Russian:
Rabbi Lazar, often termed “Putin’s Rabbi”, co-founded a Jewish congress with Uzbeki-Israeli oligarch Lev Leviev. Lazar receives patronage from Leviev, who sold the former NY Times building to Kushner, in a deal which may come under the Trump-Russia probe, and has a Genie subsidiary chairman as his board-member. David Greenblatt (who may be a relation of Jason Greenblatt) is also an executive at Genie's parent company IDT. Jason Greenblatt's brother Joseph has been imprisoned for financial fraud.
GENIE'S CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA TIES
Genie shares are also held by the data firm that assisted Trump to win the election, Renaissance Technologies (a subsidiary of Cambridge Analytica) - which is named a major shareholder . Renaissance Technologies' CEO is Trump backer Rob Mercer, Mike Flynn is their advisor, and Steve Bannon serves on its board and holds shares in the company.
Curiously, shares in Renaissance Technologies are also held by Genie’s parent company IDT- meaning that Renaissance (of Mercer/Bannon/Flynn fame) and Genie Energy's parent companies own a stake in each other. Cambridge Analytica (CA) has another uncanny connection with Genie and the Trump administration: Renaissance Technologies (which holds shares in Genie) is a major shareholder in Palo Alto networks, which employed Mike Flynn. In turn, Palo Alto Networks holds shares in Genie’s parent company IDT.
A second major stakeholder of Genie is BlackRock fund, which has been fined by the SEC for operation of an unauthorised Russia exchange-trading fund, and has been under scrutiny for its partnership with the Kremlin backed Russian Direct Investment Fund overseen by Putin.
Deutsche Bank, and Goldman Sachs, firms that have been closely tied to the Trump administration, also hold shares in Genie.
Unlike most energy companies of its size, reports have stated that Genie’s shares may only be privately traded. SEC records show that multiple employees have done insider trading in the company.
Jay Clayton, nominated by Trump to head the SEC, revealed in his disclosures that he had communicated with several individuals in the Trump administration, likely over an SEC matter: they included Rebekah Mercer, daughter of Renaissance Technologies' founder Rob Mercer, Steve Bannon (Renaissance board member), and genie president/ IDT chairman- turned- White House strategist Ira Greenstein.
Clayton also communicated with Peter Thiel, whose firm Palantir consulted with Cambridge Analytica, and won a massive US data mining contract.
Cambridge Analytica's parent company SCL also had ties to Syria:. The Trump administration granted Genie's major shareholder, Rob Mercer's Renaissance Technologies' (SCL) a valuable contract in Syria, to use its data driven models to effect 'behavioral change' for "target audience research" on ISIS. The New York Times reported that "SCL provided intelligence assessments for American defense contractors in Syria according to Company documents".
Clayton's law firm Sullivan and Cromwell represented Renaissance Technologies (SCL) as well as Genie's parent company IDT. Two partners of Sullivan Cromwell have also been nominated by Trump for SEC enforcement jobs.
GENIE'S PARENT COMPANY, IDT:
IDT has been investigated by the SEC for misconduct and also accused by its shareholder Providence of" "opaque financial dealings".
Though its business is in energy, Genie is a subsidiary spun off from the telecommunications giant IDT, by billionaire Howard Jonas, who has been called by Forbes "the hot dog expert who discovered oil".
IDT's VP James Courter made the news for his friendship with Cheney who controversially sold IDT shares given to him by Courter, pre IPO, earning 77% for holding them for one day. Courter issued the shares to several lawmakers.
IDT was then investigated and fined by the SEC, due to violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act for bribery of the Haitian president by James Courter. Haiti sued the firm in a RICO money laundering case in Miami, though the case was dismissed when Haiti ran out of money, and were not permitted by the US to use proceeds of drug traffickers they had seized, to continue the case. Upon Courter together with 5 leading Republicans on the board resigned from IDT, and Courter resigned from his position as fundraiser and party lead for Senator McCain's presidential run in 2008. He is now VP for Genie Energy, last trading stock on 11 August 2017.
On Aug 11 when Trump announced the Middle East peace envoy trip, though other shareholders had sold their stock and reports suggested it was a bad buy, with inside trades by Jonas and Courter as the only recent stock movement, Renaissance Technologies and Deutsche bank increased their shareholdings by 56 and 12 percent respectively.
GENIE FOUNDERS' TIES TO JARED, NETANYAHU AND TRUMP:
A board member of Genie until 2014 was celebrity New York rabbi Irwin Katsof, who is known as a “go between” for the Netanyahu/ Likud party.
Katsof is reported to have close ties to Netanyahu, Genie founder Howard Jonas, as well as Murray Huberfeld and David Bodner of Platinum. Huberfeld and Bodner have been listed by Netanyahu as his top target donors, and also listed as SEC pariahs. They are now under arrest for the billion-dollar Platinum hedge fund fraud in New York, which Kushner’s relatives funded.
Genie’s founder, the billionaire Howard Jonas, is a longtime friend of the Kushner family. He partnered with Jared’s father Charles on a pet philanthropy project in Israel, and wrote a “supportive letter” for Charles Kushner’s sentencing under a tax evasion/illegal campaign contribution trial. After Jared joined the White House, Jonas earned himself a cool 4 billion from the ATT / Verizon acquisition, thanks to Trump’s repeal of an Obama restriction on data regulation, which allowed the massive merger to proceed. Jonas is a campaign contributor to Netanyahu’s Likud party primaries. Netanyahu’s Minister Effi Eitam/ Head of IDF is chairman of Genie’s Israeli subsidiary Afek Energy. Effi Eitam also serves on the board of Danya Cebus, a subsidiary by the oligarch Lev Leviev who sold the former NYT building from Kushner as Trump began his election campaign.
HOW GENIE STRUCK BLACK GOLD, AND ISRAEL ANNEXED THE TERRITORY:
Through its subsidiary, Genie obtained an exclusive oil and gas exploratory rights to the area from Netanyahu’s government in 2013.
Genie Energy advisory board member/ former Louisiana Senator Landrieu, in her role as chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, sponsored and passed the US Israel energy bill in 2014, “therefore allowing the start of the complete Annexation of the Golan Heights”. “For her services to the gas and oil industry, Ms. Landrieu has received tens of thousands of dollars of political contributions from both Genie and Noble Energy between 2010 and 2014”
In Oct 2015 (as Trump’s campaign was swinging into action), the company struck oil in Israel’s Golan Heights, territory claimed by Syria. Netanyahu, and the company’s chairman Effi Eitam who heads of IDF, immediately lobbied White House for territory due to Syrian war.
Israel formally annexed the territory from Syria, after Netanyahu’s Nov 9 private meeting with Barack Obama where the Israeli PM claimed “different thinking” was needed about Golan Heights’ sovereignty, now that Syria was “failing under the Syrian war”. It was within a month of their “billion barrel” oil find.
"After the first ever cabinet meeting in the Golan Heights, Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a speech on April 17, 2016 that the territory “will remain under Israel’s sovereignty permanently.” This elicited admonitions from some of Israel’s greatest allies, the United States and Germany, and renewed attention on the issue.”
The UN “unanimously voiced alarm” over Israel’s statements that it “would never relinquish the Golan Heights, in a signal to Russia and the United States that the strategic plateau should be excluded from any deal on Syria's future.”
"Council members expressed their deep concern over recent Israeli statements about the Golan, and stressed that the status of the Golan remains unchanged," China's U.N. Ambassador Liu Jieyi, president of the 15-nation Security Council this month, told reporters after a closed-door meeting. He added that council resolution 497 of 1981 made clear that Israel's decision at the time to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the Golan was "null and void and without international legal effect." Israel rejected the UN’s complaint, which had been adopted by consensus backing of all UN members including Israel’s ally the United States.
"Experts Claim violation of international law, that Israelis “obliged by the 1907 Hague regulations to "safeguard the capital" of the occupied party's natural resources and was not entitled to exploit any oil in the Golan for its own benefit”.
International law experts say any proceeds from such a find in the Golan should revert to Syria, but Israel has so far indicated it will ignore its legal obligations.”
Human rights groups claim that Genie’s drilling violates international law as the area is a disputed territory. Resulting protest from environmental groups forced the company to halt drilling in May 2016.
WHY THE OIL DISCOVERY IS SIGNIFICANT- FINANCIALLY & POLITICALLY
The Golan discovery is reportedly enough to make Israel self-sufficient in gas. The discovery connects to the Levant Basin where additional findings of reserves of offshore gas (encroaching into disputed territory with Cyprus) were valued at 240 billion.
'Dor Alon’, a gas firm owned by Leviev’s Africa Israel (which sold the NYT building to Kushner, partnered with Israeli energy giant Delek group and US company Noble Energy, to buy stakes in the ‘Tamar/Leviathan’ offshore gas fields. Leviev’s Africa Israel also owns 26% of gas company, Dor Energy, which is the monopoly fuel supplier to the Gaza Strip.
Exploitation of the reserves propel Israel to a valuable and strategic geopolitical position as a significant gas exporter- and also led to Netanyahu’s meeting with Putin about partnership with Gazprom and protection of its ‘borders’.
"In an interview, Israel’s Minister of National infrastructure said that Israel would “not hesitate to use our force and strength” to protect the drilling operations”
The ongoing war in Syria left no opportunity for Syria to fight for its sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
A 'GENIE EFFECT' ON TRUMP AND KUSHNER'S SYRIA STRATEGY
It is not known how Kushner’s communications with the Kremlin, through his secret “backchannel” on Syria, may have affected Syria policy. As White House advisors Jason Greenblatt, Ira Greenstein and Steve Bannon have not recused themselves from matters involving Syria, and their shareholdings in Genie energy may mean a potential conflict of interest in both Middle East and Syria policy.
Kushner's disclosure forms failed to initially disclose that he also held shares in an oil and gas company, curiously under his BFPS holding company, which was listed as "real estate" ventures. He has since divested the shares.
As Kushner has been negotiating peace in the Middle East, Robert Mueller’s inquiry investigated Kushner’s back channel with Russia, reportedly for communication about Syria.
Kushner and Flynn have also been accused of pressuring UN countries on a vote about Israeli territory.
It was Kushner who "called Michael Flynn in December 2016 and told him to call members of the UN Security Council in an effort to stop a vote on a resolution critical of Israeli settlement policy, according to a person who was present in the room when Flynn took the call", Buzzfeed reported. "Flynn then called Russia’s then-ambassador to the United States to seek his assistance, and later lied to the FBI about having done so".
There were not just votes on Gaza, but also on Golan territory.
In November 2018, as The Times Of Israel reported "The United States on Friday for the first time voted against an annual UN resolution calling for Israel to withdraw from the Golan Heights, signifying a dramatic shift in US policy toward the territory..Despite the unprecedented move by the US, the resolution passed with 151 in favor, two against (Israel and the US) and 14 abstentions, one of nine anti-Israel resolutions passed by the world body in one day."
In Israel, Netanyahu has also been under bribery inquiries, which are intensifying.
Genie Energy continued to operate under ‘power of attorney’ of Israel, in its claim over the disputed territory.
While Syrian’s state the Golan Heights where Genie drills is “Syrian” territory, it is referred to on the Genie Energy website as “Northern Israel”.
The stakes are high. Whoever controls Syria, potentially controls the most world's most significant gas pipelines- and commands geopolitical power. Russia's economy depends on oil and gas industries, which are its main income. Isis has also been reliant on its plunder and control of Syrian oil and gas fields. The illicit trade in oil is a key channel of terrorism financing, and in early 2017 ISIS attacked the Golan Heights.
The Trump administration granted Genie's major shareholder, Rob Mercer's Renaissance Technologies' a valuable contract in Syria, to use its data driven models to effect 'behavioral change' for "target audience research" on ISIS. The New York Times reported that "SCL provided intelligence assessments for American defense contractors in Syria according to Company documents".
Genie's founder (Kushner family friend, Howard Jonas) then invested further in Genie's parent company, IDT, with his largest trade ever, on 9 June 2017: 1,000,000 units of stock on 9 June 2017 worth over $14,930,000"
In November 2017, Genie's Israeli subsidiary Afek released an announcement that they were temporarily suspending drilling as "preliminary analysis of results from its completed Ness 10 exploratory well in Northern Israel suggests that the well's target zone does not contain commercially producible quantities of oil or natural gas. Afek continues to analyze the data from Ness 10 in the context of the results of its prior drilling and other activities, and has suspended oil and gas drilling operations in the interim. The Company will make decisions about future operations when it has a more complete picture of the results and analysis. ..
"While we continue to study the data from Ness 10, we are looking forward to pursuing the abundant opportunities on the retail side of our business," said Michael Stein, CEO of Genie Energy...."In Israel, our nascent drilling subsidiary, Atid, continues to enjoy strong interest from prospective clients for contracted drilling services following the successful completion of a water well last year. Since Atid already owns its drilling rig, Genie's investment in that business is expected to be modest until we reach profitability," Mr. Stein added.":
The GNE shares had lept from $5.20 to $6.47 over Trump's election, from Nov 7 to 11, 2016, with the volume traded on Nov 11 nearly quadruple that of Nov 7.
They are now $8.50
On March 25, just weeks before the upcoming Israeli election, Trump issued a proclamation affirming the US' recognition of the Golan Heights as a part of Israel, to Genie's benefit:
In May 2017 at Mar a Lago, Trump had authorized air strikes on Syria “over a beautiful piece of chocolate cake”. It was described as “after dinner entertainment” to impress the Chinese premier.
© Wendy Dent
31 March 2019
(First investigated and offered by Wendy Dent as a scoop to major media in 2017)