Private Israeli business espionage firm Black Cube was hired by people close to US President Donald Trump to obtain compromising materials on advisers to former president Barack Obama involved with finalizing the Iran nuclear deal, the New Yorker revealed Monday.
If the New Yorker’s report is accurate, Trump’s people followed disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, who used the private security firm to fend off accusations of sexual harassment and rape of multiple women.
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Weinstein, it was reported last year, used private investigators, including ex-Mossad and former operatives from other Israeli intelligence agencies, for more than a year to locate journalists and actresses who tried to make public the years’ long string of harassment and attacks attributed to the producer.
Among the companies hired by Weinstein towards that end were the aforementioned Black Cube firm, as well as another firm. The companies then contacted journalist working on the story using aliases in order to piece together which actresses provided accounts of the assaults.
The British Observer magazine initially reported over the weekend that aides to President Trump hired a private Israeli intelligence firm last year to “get dirt” on prominent Obama administration officials who were involved in talks on the Iran nuclear deal in an effort to discredit them and consequently the deal.
The goal: Sowing doubt regarding nuclear deal’s architects
According to the Observer, Trump aides contacted private investigators in May 2017, asking them to look into Ben Rhodes, who served as deputy national security adviser for strategic communications in the Obama White House, and Colin Kahl, who served as the deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East.
The pact between Iran and six major powers—Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States—was among former US President Barack Obama’s signature foreign policies but has been described by Trump as “one of the worst deals I have ever witnessed.”
According to the Observer, officials linked to Trump’s team contacted the Israeli private investigators several days after the American president’s visit to Israel last year.
“The idea was that people acting for Trump would discredit those who were pivotal in selling the deal, making it easier to pull out of it,” a source told the Observer.
The operation was handled by Black Cube, two source divulged to the New Yorker.
Documents obtained by the magazine showed that the private firm’s people collected detailed dossiers on a number of people, including Rhodes and Kahl, which included their home addresses, information about family members and even the make of their cars.
Black Cube’s investigators were instructed to try and uncover damaging information on the former Obama officials, including unsubstantiated claims that Rhodes and Kahl had worked in conjunction with Iranian lobbyists to promote the nuclear deal in return for monetary kickbacks—a claim the two vociferously deny.
Black Cube disavows ties to Trump administration
Black Cube provided comment on the matter, saying it was company policy to never discuss its clients with any third parties, and to never confirm or deny speculations made regarding the company’s projects.
It was further communicated that Black Cube had no ties whatsoever to “the Trump administration, Trump aides, anyone close to the administration, or to the Iran nuclear deal.”
The Israeli espionage firm concluded by saying it “always operated in full compliance of the law in every jurisdiction in which it conducts its work, following legal advice from the world’s leading law firms.”
The statement issued by Black Cube bore striking similarities to the company’s response to reports of its involvement in the Weinstein affair. The company stated then that, “It is Black Cube’s policy to never discuss its clients with any third party, and to never confirm or deny any speculation made with regard to the company’s work.”
The statement continued, “Black Cube supports the work of many leading law firms around the world, especially in the US, gathering evidence for complex legal processes, involving commercial disputes, among them uncovering negative campaigns. The company does not get involved in family disputes or sexual harassment cases.
“It should be highlighted that Black Cube applies high moral standards to its work, and operates in full compliance with the law of any jurisdiction in which it operates –strictly following the guidance and legal opinions provided by leading law firms from around the world.”
Founded in 2011 by Dan Zorella, who served in an elite unit in the IDF Military Intelligence and Dr. Avi Yanus Black Cube managed to attract some top man in the spy industry, including former Mossad manager, the late Meir Dagan.
Dagan advised Black Cube on complex issues that required his extensive specialization and gave the company the benefit of his worldwide connections. Later, Meir Dagan became the firm’s honorary president.
The two founders met at the Technion in Haifa, when they studied for their BA in management and economics. Zorella also graduated in Business Administration at Tel Aviv University. Yanus completed his doctorate. Currently, Yanus lives in London and handles the investigations in Europe.
Their goal was to build a civilian version of intelligence agencies such as the British MI6, American CIA or Israeli Mossad.
What originated as a start-up created by friends, however, transformed into a gigantic company employing dozens of former Israeli intelligence officials, from computer whizzes to stealth operatives with confirmed kills.
The company’s first big case was of the Jewish-British billionaire Vincent Tchenguiz. Tchenguiz told the story in an interview to Israeli magazin G In October 2016. Tchenguiz said that dozens of investigators from the British Serious Fraud Office (SFO) raided his house and his brother Robert’s house in March 2011 and arrested them on suspicion of a complex deception that led to the collapse of Iceland’s Kaupthing Bank.
When they released, the same day, the brothers claimed that the information that led to their arrest was untrue. They hired the services of Black Cube and managed to prove their case.
Later Robert also sued the SFO, Kaupthing, and the Grant Thornton accounting firm, whose materials were used as the foundation for the charges. He reached a settlement with the SFO, in which he received an apology and £3 million.
In one of the cases Yanus describes to court in Israel: “Black Cube is based on a group of former Israeli intelligence agents, skilled intelligence professionals with backgrounds in finance and law. Over 50 investigators work for the firm [since then, Black Cube states that the number has risen to 100], including attorneys, economists, and financial professionals, who blend intelligence work and business experience. The firm also has a staff of experienced advisors who are highly experienced in business, law, banking, the academic world, and technology, and who consult on the projects that the firm is involved in – some are international experts in the financial markets and risk management, and others are former members of the Israeli intelligence community. The firm provides services to a small circle of high-quality clients.“