Ice Cube (real name O'Shea Jackson) and Jeff Kwatinetz, co-owners of the basketball league BIG3, have reportedly testified that Qatari backers sought to use investment in their league to access – and potentially bribe – Steve Bannon, then the chief strategist to U.S. President Donald Trump, who is reportedly friends with Kwatinetz.
The testimony was made in a Los Angeles court as part of BIG3's $1.2 billion lawsuit against five Qatari-based individuals and owners of the Delaware-based company Sport Trinity. Jackson and Kwatinetz claim the men reneged on an agreed $20.5 million investment, and allege the Qatari backers hoped to use their cash "to get positive public relations for Qatar" and "about perceived influence in America."
Jackson and Kwatinetz testified that one of the men, a former diplomat named Ahmed al Rumaihi, was a shadow representative of the Qatari government, and boasted about bribing "several Washington politicians." One of these individuals was allegedly General Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security advisor who pled guilty in December 2017 to lying to the F.B.I. about his contact with the Russian government during Trump's transition to the presidency.
Even after Bannon was fired from the White House and lost his job at the right-wing news organization Breitbart, al Rumaihi was allegedly still interested in funneling him money. Kwatinetz said in the Los Angeles courtroom that al Rumaihi wanted to "underwrite all of Bannon's political efforts in return for his support."
Kwatinetz said in his testimony: "Mr. al Rumaihi requested I set up a meeting between him, the Qatari government, and Steven Bannon, and to tell Steve Bannon that Qatar would underwrite all of his political efforts in return for his support." Kwatinetz claims to have refused to set up the meeting and that he did not tell Bannon about the proposal.
"Mr. Al-Rumahi laughed and then stated to me that I shouldn't be naive, that so many Washington politicians take our money, and stated 'do you think [Michael] Flynn turned down our money?''
The five defendents named in the suit are Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Saud al Thani, the CEO of the Qatari Investment Authority, al Rumaihi, and two men who the suit alleges have connections to the Qatari royal family.
A representative for Sport Trinity denied Kwatinetz's allegations in a statement to The FADER:
“Simply put, the statements in Mr. Kwatinetz’s declaration are pure Hollywood fiction. Mr. Kwatinetz is engaging in a xenophobic PR smear campaign against Sport Trinity, the largest investor in BIG3 basketball, to cover up his own mismanagement and erratic behavior with respect to the league. Mr. Kwatinetz’s commercial dispute with Sport Trinity is meritless.”