A New York man has been indicted on charges that he acted as an unregistered agent of Egypt's government, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said on Thursday, according to The Hill.
The DOJ said Pierre Girgis, a dual-citizen of the US and Egypt, operated in the direction and control of multiple Egyptian government employees between 2014 to 2019 in an effort to advance the government's interest in the country.
In the two-count indictment, prosecutors said Girgis tracked down the movement of opponents of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and used his connections with local enforcement to obtain non-public information.
He also allegedly arranged benefits for country officials visiting Manhattan, and coordinated meetings between US and Egyptian law enforcement officials.
Prosecutors also alleged Girgis' activities included setting up Egyptian officials to participate in police-based training in Manhattan that was meant for only law enforcement, said the statement.
“As alleged, Pierre Girgis failed to meet his requirements to register as a foreign agent in the United States,” said US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams in a statement quoted by The Hill.
“At the behest of Egyptian officials, Girgis’ alleged prohibited conduct included attempting to covertly gather non-public intelligence about the activities of political opponents of Egypt’s president, and attempting to gain access for foreign officials to attend law enforcement-only trainings in Manhattan. This office will continue to strictly enforce foreign agent registration laws, which remain critically important to ensuring that our government is not secretly influenced by foreign governments,” Williams concluded.
Girgis, 39, was arrested by authorities on Thursday and is charged with one count of acting as an agent of a foreign government without notifying the attorney general and was also charged with a similar conspiracy-related charge as well. He could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted of all charges.
It remains to be seen if, and how, this development will affect US-Egypt relations, which were strained under the Obama administration. Obama suspended American military aid to Egypt following the 2013 ouster of former Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, before releasing it two years later.
Following the election of Donald Trump, however, ties improved. Sisi praised Trump after his election and said he expected greater engagement in the Middle East from his administration.
In February, the Biden administration approved the sale of 168 tactical missiles to Egypt.
The $197 million sale of the Raytheon-made Rolling Airframe Missiles was requested by the Egyptian navy to improve defense in coastal areas and around the Red Sea.
Biden's administration in August called Egypt a "constructive" defense partner despite concerns on human rights.