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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 September 2018

Qatar used Ice Cube basketball league in Steve Bannon bribe plot, lawsuit claims

Rapper’s BIG3 league was targeted by high-level Qatari investor

Actor and rapper Ice Cube is suing several high-profile Qataris over an alleged bribe plot. Frederic J Brown / AFP
Actor and rapper Ice Cube is suing several high-profile Qataris over an alleged bribe plot. Frederic J Brown / AFP

The Qatari government reportedly attempted to court favour with key aides of President Donald Trump through the basketball league of hip hop superstar Ice Cube, a business associate of Ice Cube has alleged.

The rapper, real name O’Shea Jackson, and his business partner Jeff Kwatinetz claim in a new $1.2bn lawsuit that a prominent Qatari investor and former diplomat attempted to set up a meeting with Mr Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon by using them for access.

The suit, filed against several high-profile Qataris last month and first reported by Britain’s Daily Mail, alleges that investors from Doha used the pair’s BIG3 basketball league to get greater access to the inner circle of the US leader.

Ahmed Al Rumaihi, an alleged member of the Qatari royal family and the head of Qatar Investments, a $100 billion sovereign wealth fund of the Qatar Investment Authority (QNA), promised to invest $20.5m into the league.

But the high-level Qatari only paid $7.5 million and had other motives, according to the lawsuit. It alleges that he was acting as a front for the Qatari government and that his real target was Mr Bannon.

“Mr Al Rumaihi requested I set up a meeting between him, the Qatari government, and Steven Bannon, and to tell Steve Bannon that Qatar would underwrite all of his political efforts in return for his support,” Mr Kwatinetz said in the court filing.

He added that he turned down the offer and called it a “bribe” that had left him “appalled”.

Mr Al Rumaihi is also accused in the suit of bragging about giving money to other top aides to Mr Trump, including his now-fired former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

The court document says: "Mr Al Rumahi laughed and then stated to me that I shouldn't be naive, that so many Washington politicians take our money, and stated 'do you think Flynn turned down our money?’''

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Mr Kwatinetz accuses Al Rumaihi of repeatedly mentioning Mr Bannon by name and “persistently inquired about wanting to meet with Mr Bannon,” who the businessmen is close friends with.

But Sport Trinity, the company the basketball league founder alleges the Qataris used as a front, released the following statement about Mr Kwatinetz's claims.

“Simply put, the statements in Mr. Kwatinetz’s declaration are pure Hollywood fiction," a spokesperson said in an email.

"Mr. Kwatinetz is engaging in a xenophobic PR smear campaign against Sport Trinity, the largest investor in BIG3 basketball, to cover up his own mismanagement and erratic behavior with respect to the league. Mr. Kwatinetz’s commercial dispute with Sport Trinity is meritless.”

The wealthy Qatari also tried to find out the views of the Trump administration on the blockade of his country, which Gulf and Sunni states imposed last year as a result of what those countries said was Qatar’s funding of terrorism.

The lawsuit names the defendants as Al Rumaihi and Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Saud Al Thani, the CEO of the Qatari Investment Authority.

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