A lobbyist recruited to represent the Myanmar junta internationally is set to pocket a US$2 million fee, according to documents filed to the US Justice Department seen Wednesday.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military ousted and detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi early last month, triggering daily protests around the country to demand the return of democracy.
Close to 2,000 people have been arrested and the death toll has climbed to more than 60, as security forces attempt to quash the resistance.
Israeli-Canadian lobbyist Ari Ben-Menashe and his Montreal-based firm Dickens and Madson signed a contract with the Myanmar military regime on March 4, more than a month after the putsch.
The firm agreed to lobby the United States, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Israel, Russia and other countries as well as the United Nations and African Union and other international organisations on behalf of the Myanmar republic, a copy of the agreement says.
“The agreement between the parties is for the payment of fees and expenses in the amount of $2,000,000.00 US to be paid by the foreign principal to the Registrant when legally permissible by controlling jurisdictions,” the document, published on the US Justice Department website, says.
Part of the firm’s remit is “to assist in explaining the real situation in the country”, while lobbying to get international sanctions lifted.
Myanmar’s generals have shown no sign of heeding calls for restraint amid escalating violence despite mounting international pressure, including targeted sanctions by Western powers.
Ben-Menashe, who describes himself as a former Israeli intelligence officer, has been involved in controversy in the past.
He was arrested in the late 1980s on US allegations that he sold military aircraft to Iran. The case went to trial, but he was acquitted.
In the early 2000s he was a key figure in a treason case brought against a Zimbabwean opposition leader, while in 2019 his firm signed a $1 million deal to lobby for a jailed Tunisian presidential hopeful.
He was also implicated in a scandal in Canada that led to the resignation of the chairman of a parliamentary committee responsible for monitoring the country’s spy service.