WASHINGTON (AP) — It was a few days before the one-year anniversary of President Donald Trump’s inauguration and a Lebanese-American businessman was on his way to Mar-a-Lago.
George Nader, an international fixer whose long history included intrepid back-channel mediation between Israel and Arab countries — and a 15-year-old pedophilia conviction in Europe that has not been previously reported — was transiting through Dulles International Airport outside Washington.
It was hardly his first far-flung journey to see top aides of the world’s most powerful leader, as Nader had met the U.S. president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and chief strategist Steve Bannon in the days before they stormed the White House.
But he encountered an altogether different scene awaiting him at the airport.
There, special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators stopped Nader, people familiar with the case said. His electronics were seized and he was then allowed to go to his lawyer. Nader later agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation, said the people with knowledge of the case as it pertains to Nader. They weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the case and demanded anonymity.
Mueller, whose team has spent the last 10 months investigating possible Trump-related wrongdoing connected to Russia, is interested in high-level get-togethers Nader participated in after the presidential election, according to three people familiar with the case.
The first took place in Trump Tower in New York in December 2016 and brought together Nader, Kushner, Bannon — whom Trump fired last August — and Mohammed bin Zayed, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and de facto leader of the United Arab Emirates. The second occurred a month later in the Indian Ocean archipelago of Seychelles and involved Nader, bin Zayed, former Blackwater boss Erik Prince and Kirill Dmitriev, a Russian banker close to President Vladimir Putin.
For Nader, it was the latest brush with the law in an eventful, globe-trotting career.
Many of Nader’s former contacts and onetime friends have noted in recent weeks how they lost touch with him in the early 2000s.
On Wednesday, an official in the Czech Republic told The Associated Press that Nader is a convicted pedophile and served time in a Prague prison around that time.
Nader was convicted by Prague’s Municipal Court of 10 cases of sexually abusing minors and sentenced to a one-year prison term in May 2003, said Marketa Puci, the court spokeswoman. She said the crimes occurred between 1999 and 2002.
Nader’s legal problems in Prague appear unrelated to his role in Mueller’s probe in the United States. But they contribute to the portrait of a man who has led a shadowy existence as a go-between across numerous Middle East capitals and who gave testimony to Mueller’s Washington grand jury earlier this month.
Nader had worked in recent times as an adviser to bin Zayed, one of the most powerful men in the Middle East, according to people who know Nader. The questioning of Nader in the Mueller probe suggests possible interest in UAE relations with Trump’s transition team or his administration.
Puci, the court spokeswoman, said Nader was convicted of "moral corruption of minors, sexual abuse and impairing morals," after abusing underage boys.
In one case, Nader requested oral sex from a 14-year-old in a room at the Hilton Hotel in Prague, Puci said. After the boy refused, Nader masturbated in front of the boy and paid him 2,000 koruna — worth about $100 today, she said.
The verdict cites other examples of Nader providing money, jewelry, cellphones, clothes and accommodation for sexual services. The AP was able to see a copy of the verdict, which gives Nader’s birthdate as May 15, 1959. Nader was separately accused in Washington, D.C., of child pornography infractions in 1985, but those charges were later dropped. A criminal docket sheet obtained by the AP shows the same birthdate for Nader.
Two people with knowledge of the case say it involved the same Nader now cooperating with Mueller.
Puci said it wasn’t clear how much of the one-year sentence Nader served in the Czech Republic. He was ordered expelled following his time served.
Kathy Ruemmler, who previously served as White House counsel to President Barack Obama, is among the lawyers representing Nader. She declined to answer questions about her client.
But Sandeep Savla, another lawyer for Nader, said: "This is nothing more than an orchestrated, disgusting scheme by those who are trying to intimidate Mr. Nader into silence. It won’t work. Mr. Nader will continue to answer truthfully questions put to him by the special counsel."
Nader’s connections with Trump confidants include Elliott Broidy, a top Republican fundraiser who co-hosted a Tuesday night event attended by the president in Beverly Hills, California.
Earlier this month, several media organizations, including the AP, obtained emails belonging to Broidy, a California-based venture capitalist and the Republican National Committee’s deputy finance chairman. They show Broidy emailing Nader with a summary of Broidy’s talks with Kushner and Trump in the White House in October 2017, touching on matters including the UAE’s bitter dispute with fellow Persian Gulf country Qatar.
Broidy accused Qatar of hacking his emails. The Qataris denied the charge.
"Your government’s actions against U.S. citizens will jeopardize your nation’s relationship with the United States," Broidy wrote in a public letter to Qatar’s U.S. ambassador.
In response, the Qatari government called Broidy’s "baseless accusations" a "diversionary tactic."
Janicek reported from Prague. Associated Press writers Desmond Butler, Tom LoBianco and Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this report.