By WND Staff
A recent revelation in a U.S. district court case may implicate the Kingdom of Morocco in the Qatari government’s reported hacking campaign that targeted more than 1,000 people in several countries, including high-profile Americans from across the political spectrum.
Moroccan-born former diplomat Jamal Benomar, who had a 25-year U.N. career and last served as special adviser to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for conflict prevention, is currently in Rabat for meetings with high-level Moroccan officials, according to two sources on the ground.
Benomar, who spent eight years as a political prisoner in Morocco over his opposition of the nation’s government, seems to have reconciled with his native country as he faces a lawsuit brought by former Republican National Committee finance chairman and Qatar critic Elliott Broidy. Benomar is accused of orchestrating Qatar’s dissemination to the media of Broidy’s stolen emails and other documents in order to damage the Republican fundraiser’s reputation.
The ex-U.N. official’s attorney, Abbe Lowell, recently wrote in a letter to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York that because Benomar “specifically counseled Qatar at the request of his home government of Morocco, Mr. Benomar enjoys derivative sovereign immunity not only based on Qatar’s immunity as a sovereign, but on Morocco’s immunity as a sovereign as well. Consequently, this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, and the case must be dismissed, because the alleged actions of Mr. Benomar are protected under derivative sovereign immunity.”
In claiming Benomar received direction from Morocco in advising Qatar, Lowell’s letter appears to implicate the Moroccan government in what is reportedly the second-largest hacking campaign ever documented. Spanning from 2014-2018, Qatar’s alleged hacking operation targeted Broidy, an ex-CIA official, a Democratic Party operative, and other victims who “range from Syrian human-rights activists to Egyptian soccer players,” Bloomberg recently reported.
Benomar is best known for his tenure as the U.N.’s special envoy in Yemen, where he was responsible for attempting to mediate that country’s civil war between Iranian-armed Houthi rebels and the government. The Saudi-led coalition of Gulf states — excluding Qatar — accused Benomar of being fixated on Hadi-Houthi peace talks and on his own legacy, instead of emphasizing continued Houthi aggression. Benomar’s time as envoy was also marked by indications of his pro-Qatar bias, Broidy’s lawsuit notes.
A resident of the U.S. for 30 years, Benomar retired from the U.N. in 2017, after which point he became an adviser for the Qatari government. He lives outside of New York City.
After Broidy filed his lawsuit this July, Benomar arranged to have Morocco try to accredit him to the Moroccan Mission to the U.N. In September, Morocco notified the U.S. State Department that Benomar was a “Minister Plenipotentiary.” Lowell, the former diplomat’s attorney, argued in his letter to the U.S. district court that this alleged diplomatic status should give Benomar complete immunity from Broidy’s lawsuit.
However, the Moroccan appointment could violate the U.S. Mission to the U.N.’s established criteria for affording an individual the immunity Benomar is claiming. The Mission states that diplomatic privileges and immunities “will be conferred only with respect to categories of individuals who will represent their countries before the United Nations as their primary function in the United States.”
Multiple sources with direct knowledge of the accreditation process said that Benomar’s diplomatic credentials are currently being reviewed by the U.S. Mission.
“It’s extremely puzzling that Morocco, rather than maintaining a neutral stance, has decided to align with Qatar and Doha’s ally Iran in their dispute with the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries,” said a former U.S. national security official who requested to remain anonymous. “Morocco’s attempt to abuse diplomatic immunity practices risks damaging its relationship with the United States, especially considering that Benomar is allegedly a ringleader in a major hack of American citizens. Morocco should know better than to try to use diplomatic immunity to shield someone from the consequences of their wrongdoing.”
The former official also warned that Morocco’s attempt to shield Benomar from Broidy’s lawsuit “sets a dangerous precedent on the abuse and weaponization of diplomatic immunity, a status which could now be used by other states to undermine U.S. interests in international forums. Benomar’s accreditation is now squarely in Ambassador Nikki Haley’s hands. I hope she decides wisely, and with the security of American citizens as her top consideration.”
In September, Benomar replaced Pierre Lescure on the Supervisory Board of Lagardère SCA, a multinational media conglomerate headquartered in Paris. Lagardère did not immediately return a request for comment regarding whether it is concerned about the criminal allegations surrounding Benomar, and whether Benomar would retain his seat on the board if it is proven that he engaged in illegal activity.