Ambassador confirms FBI warrant for Pharaon

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Ghaith Pharaon, a Saudi businessman who was granted a visa by Hungary in 2014, is still being sought by the FBI on suspicion of fraud, blackmail and incitement, Eric Watnik, counselor for public affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Budapest, confirmed today to government-friendly paper Magyar Idők. Watnik said Interpol is also looking for Pharaon. 

Watnik told Magyar Idők that the businessman has been sought by the FBI since November 15, 1991. Due to an extradition agreement between the United States and Hungary, if somebody has information about the whereabouts of Pharaon, the authorities must be informed immediately, Hungarian news portal index.hu noted. The Saudi is not listed publicly by the FBI or Interpol, which Watnik says is because the warrant is old, according to index.hu. 

The Saudi businessman was granted a visa by Hungary in 2014 after he filed an application at the Hungarian Embassy in Beirut in October, Cabinet Chief János Lázár was reported as saying during his regular weekly press conference Thursday. Lázár said that before the businessman was granted the visa, which reportedly enables him to move freely in the Schengen Area, Hungary made inquiries about him from many countries, including the United States and Saudi Arabia. Lázár claimed only Germany answered Hungary, saying that its interests would not be damaged by the businessman being granted a visa.

Lázár said that, according to records, Pharaon entered Hungary last year for the last time. Lázár added, according to index.hu, that the Hungarian government has contacted Interpol about the businessman, and the body has confirmed the outstanding warrant. Consequently, he said, if Pharaon enters Hungary again, he will be arrested immediately.

Pharaon is allegedly connected through business ties with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s son-in-law, index.hu cited earlier media reports as saying, although these reports have not yet been confirmed officially. The Hungarian daily also recalled that Pharaon reportedly purchased land in the neighborhood of Orbán’s residence in Buda, reports that have been rejected by Károly Kontrát, state secretary at the Ministry of Interior.

According to Wikipedia, Pharaon was at one time an investor in the defunct Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI). Secretly acting on behalf of BCCI, it says, Pharaon acquired control of two American banks in violation of federal banking laws. When the fraud was discovered, BCCI was forced to sell the banks, and was soon after shut down by regulators when it was determined to be insolvent. Pharaon was charged with wire fraud and racketeering conspiracy, and American authorities are still seeking his extradition, according to Wikipedia.

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