Austria’s weekly news magazine, Profil, first reported on Monday that the former envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, is the subject of a probe being conducted by the US Department of Justice, according to previously unpublished court documents. Thomas Vecsey, an Austrian state prosecutor, has since verified that claim to the Associated Press.
Khalilzad, 63, served as the twenty-sixth US ambassador of the UN from 2007 through 2009, and prior to then was America’s envoy to Iraq and Afghanistan under President George W. Bush — and thus the highest-ranking Muslim American to serve in the Bush administration. He is currently the president and CEO of Khalilzad Associates, a division of the DC-based Gryphon Partners group that bills itself as a global advisory firm focused on frontier markets and, according to Bloomberg News, is also on the board of two petroleum companies — one based in the UAE and another in the UK.
According to Profil, Khalilzad is accused of illegally transferring around $1.4 million to a bank account administered by his wife, social scientist and author Cheryl Benard. The funds, the magazine reported, are believed to be linked to activities involving Khalilzad and companies in Iraq and the United Arab Emirates, and were transferred to his wife in May 2013.
On Monday, Bloomberg reported that “the documents alleging the misconduct were part of a cache of sensitive papers retrieved from a garbage bin earlier this year by a Vienna-based blogger.”
When reached for comment by the New York Times, a spokesperson for the state prosecutors’ office in Vienna said only that a case was underway involving Ms. Benard. Holger Bielesz, an Austrian-based lawyer for the woman, told the paper that an unspecific number of his client’s accounts were frozen in February upon request of the DOJ, corroborating claims published first in Profil about Ms. Benard’s finances.
Bielesz, according to the AP, “argued Austrian authorities had over-reacted in ordering Benard’s bank accounts frozen, considering that the Justice Department has yet to express ‘reasonable grounds for suspicions.”
Reps for Khalilzad and his wife say they “vigorously” contest Austria’s seizure of assets. “No charges pending…in the US or elsewhere.”
— Jason Ukman (@JasonUkman) September 8, 2014
As of now, the lawyer added, US authorities have failed to produce any “concrete evidence” against either Khalilzad or his wife. According to a tweet sent on Monday by Washington Post deputy national security editor Jason Ukman, representatives for Khalilzad and his wife say they “vigorously” contest Austria’s seizure of assets, and added that no charges are currently pending “in the US or elsewhere.”