Infamous Israeli lobbyist for Myanmar Junta ceases efforts; wasn't paid
Since rising to early infamy after trying to sell 3 transport US transport helicopters to Iran, Ben-Menashe moved to Canada to start his own lobbying firm, representing many controversial clients.
WASHINGTON - An Israeli-Canadian lobbyist hired by Myanmar's ruling military leaders to represent them in Washington and other capitals said on Wednesday he has stopped his work with the generals because sanctions prevented him from being paid.
Ari Ben-Menashe and his Montreal-based firm Dickens & Madson Canada in March signed a $2 million agreement with a top general and filed foreign lobbying documents with the US Department of Justice, pledging to help the West understand the generals who seized power in the Southeast Asian nation on Feb. 1.
Ben-Menashe said at the time that he would receive payment once sanctions were lifted. By working with Myanmar's military, he risked violating US sanctions imposed on top generals, legal experts said.
Sanctions on military leaders were already in place, but Washington has ramped up measures against them and military companies as Myanmar's security forces have responded to protests with a brutal crackdown.
On Wednesday, Ben-Menashe said by phone he remained on good terms with Myanmar's generals but his work was "on a break" because he was unable to receive payment due to the sanctions.
Ben-Menashe said he informed the military leaders of the stoppage last month. It was first reported by Foreign Lobby Report on Tuesday.
"We can't get paid. It’s getting very expensive," Ben-Menashe said.
During his time working for the generals, Ben-Menashe helped arrange a visit of a CNN reporter to Myanmar. He declined to go into detail about his other work for the generals, aside from describing it as "humanitarian."
ROAD TO INFAMY
Ben-Menashe has long been an infamous character in the arms trade and lobbying worlds. After immigrating to Israel with his parents in the 1960's, he was enlisted as a translator for IDF intelligence, later being promoted to work in IDF intelligence foreign relations.
In September 1986, Ben-Menashe gave information to Time correspondent Raji Samghabadi about weapons shipments to Iran organized by Richard Secord, Oliver North and Albert Hakim, which later became known as the Iran–Contra affair.
Time was unable to corroborate the allegations, and Ben-Menashe later passed the information to the Lebanese Ash-Shiraa magazine, which published them in November of 1986, leading to congressional investigations that corroborated the information.
Ben-Menashe later claimed that the leak was done on the orders of then-prime minister Yitzhak Shamir to embarrass his Labor Party rival, Shimon Peres.
He rose to prominence in 1989, after being arrested in the US for violating the Arms Export Control Act for trying to sell three Lockheed C-130 Hercules transport aircraft to Iran that used false end-user certificates.
While a 1990 article in The Jerusalem Post claimed that "the Defense establishment 'never had any contacts with Ari Ben-Menashe and his activities,' both the claim and the charges against him were later dropped after Ben-Moshe proved that he had in fact worked for Israeli intelligence.
He claimed that he had been personally involved in assisting Ronald Reagan's presidential campaign with its "October surprise" of preventing the American hostages from being released before the 1980 election, where he defeated President Jimmy Carter.
His claims of helping the Reagan campaign and of assisting in negotiation that helped eventually release the US Embassy employees were disproven in the following years.
He had also claimed that he had worked both for the Mossad and as a special advisor to then Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. Those claims would also turn out to be false, and filled with inconsistencies.
His stories had managed to fool several major news outlets around the world, leading him to even testify as an expert witness in US Congressional hearings in the early 1990's before being discredited in the US completely.
After being discredited in the States, Ben-Menashe moved to Australia, where he repeated similar patterns of handing inaccurate information to journalists before his asylum claims were denied.
He eventually moved to Canada, where he started his controversial lobbying firm, lobbying in favor of many of the most brutal dictatorships of the past three decades.
Beyond his previous representation of the Myanmar military dictatorship, he was also famously behind the disinformation campaign against the political opponent of then-embargoed dictator and president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe.
Most recently, Ben-Menashe's Montreal based lobbying firm was hired by Sudanese General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo in a $6 million deal, which critics dubbed "blood money," accusing Dagalo of pillaging the money during the country's civil war.