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Denver law firm still lobbying for Saudi Arabia after journalist’s killing

One of Saudi Arabia's chief lobbying firms in the U.S. is a top Denver law firm, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, which has no plans to cut ties to the kingdom despite allegations that the government was involved in a journalist's killing.

DENVER — A prominent Denver law firm says it has no plans to stop lobbying for the government of Saudi Arabia after the Saudis were accused of murdering and dismembering an American-based journalist.

Denver-based Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck has a lucrative contract with the Saudi embassy in Washington, D.C. valued at $125,000 per month. 9NEWS has obtained a copy of the contract (see below). While other lobbyists representing the Saudis have cut ties, BHFS is standing by Saudi regime.

For weeks Saudi Arabia has been the focus of international condemnation after the country’s leadership was implicated in the brutal killing of a vocal critic. Dissident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2. Turkey immediately blamed Saudi Arabia, strategically releasing forensic intelligence that indicates Khashoggi was killed and his body dismembered by Saudi security personnel with close ties to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

In the weeks since the killing, the Saudis have presented an ever-shifting narrative about what occurred inside its consulate in Istanbul and who was responsible. After first denying that Khashoggi was even dead, Riyadh finally admitted on Oct. 20 that Khashoggi died at the hands of operatives, in what the Saudi’s claim was a rendition gone wrong.

Even while its story has changed, the Saudi government has maintained that the kingdom’s top leaders, the Crown Prince and his father, King Salman, were unaware of the operation to detain and rendition Khashoggi, nor had they authorized it.

Western intelligence is not buying this version of events, saying that only the highest levels of Saudi government could have approved such an elaborate and highly sensitive operation.

It is against this charged backdrop that a spotlight is being cast on BHFS, which represents the interests of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the halls of Congress and other top levels of government and business.

Among the services BHFS has performed on behalf of the kingdom this year include lobbying members of Congress to reject the “No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act of 2018.”

The bill, known as NOPEC, if it were to become law, would make illegal foreign countries acting to limit the production or distribution of oil and other petroleum products and price fixing.

Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest producer of crude oil and is the leading member of OPEC, the oil cartel.

BHFS distributed a letter, written by the America Petroleum Institute to members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, on behalf of Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The letter argues that the bill is a “political act” that open the United States to litigation filed on behalf of OPEC countries, presumably including Saudi Arabia.

But it is the Khashoggi killing that has drawn the ire and criticism of the international community.

U.S. lawmakers from both parties have called for sanctions against Saudi Arabia. President Trump has echoed some of those calls but explicitly stated that he hoped sanctions would not impact arms sales to the kingdom.

In May 2017, the Trump administration and Riyadh agreed to a $110 billion defense agreement. The sale includes purchases of missiles, combat ships, Black Hawk helicopters and tactical aircraft.

Despite worries that Saudi Arabia, emboldened by American weaponry, is bullying its neighbors in Qatar, ratcheting up a war of words with Iran and facilitating a brutal war in Yemen, BHFS distributed a memo earlier this year on behalf of Saudi Arabia that states the kingdom and the United States share “a united front against a shared threat” to fight terrorism and deter Iranian aggression.

BHFS also played a role in distributing promotional materials that extol Saudi Arabia’s regional and global ambitions. A document called “Vison 2030” describes Saudi Arabia as “the heart of the Arab and Islamic worlds” and “the hub connecting three continents”

The document is signed by the Crown Prince, who is known by his initials MBS. Western intelligence and Ankara believe MBS may have ordered the mission that killed Khashoggi, or he was at least aware of its parameters.

The law firm prides itself on the values that define the company – “All In, Excellence, Respect and Giving Back.” The firm’s website states, “Put simply, our values are our competitive advantage…They add meaning to our work…Our values thrive when we take individual responsibility for living them day-to-day and can count on each other to do the same.”

BHFS has represented the kingdom since 2016. Al Mottur, whose signature appears on the contract, says that it has no plans to terminate the agreement. A representative told 9NEWS that the firm is one of 18 American firms that represent the interests of Saudi Arabia. At least five other companies have severed ties. No one from BHFS headquarters in Denver works on the Saudi contract.

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