As a young journalist, I was taught to write what’s known in the trade as a “nut graf,” a brief summary of what my story was all about.
I regret to inform you that it is beyond my abilities to write a sentence or two that sums up Harry Sargeant III, whose name has surfaced in the congressional impeachment inquiry into Trump and Ukraine.
The best I can do is tell you that it would include the following: Ukraine, President Trump, Rudy Giuliani, CIA, a sex tape, straw donors, prostitutes in a golf cart, “war profiteering,” the CIA, the Jordanian royal family, and overseas bribery allegations.
Sargeant’s name was mentioned several times in the just-released testimony of Fiona Hill, President Trump’s former top advisor on Russia:
Hill goes on to say she learned that Sergeant was “bad news” after speaking with her colleagues in some organization whose name has been redacted, presumably because it’s related to intelligence or national security. And Sargeant had something to do with Hill’s feeling that the current Ukraine mess is her “worst nightmare.”
Q. Dr. Hill, you sajd in the last segment of your testimony that we’re now living your worst nightmare. Can you unpack that a little bit for us? What do you mean by that?
A Well, I was extremely concerned that whatever it was that Mr. Giuliani was doing might not be legal , especially after, you know, people had raised with me these two gentlemen, Parnas and Fruman. And also they’d mentioned this third individual who, I mean, I guess is actually on the list of names that you had because I didn’t recognize all the others of, Harry Sargeant and when I’d spoken to my colleagues who, you know, were based in Florida, including our director for the Western Hemisphere, and he’d mentioned that these people were notorious and that, you know, they’d been involved in all kinds of strange things in Venezuela and, you know, kind of were just well-known for not being aboveboard. And so my early assumption was that it was pushing particular individuals’ business interests.
Sargeant rarely speaks to reporters, but in a press release he put out last month, the former fighter pilot, oil billionaire, and GOP fundraiser, insisted that he “conducts no business of any kind in the Ukraine and has not visited Ukraine, even as a tourist, in well over a decade.”
Regular meetings with President Trump?
Sargeant was responding to was a report by The Associated Press that placed him inside a plot to install new management at the top of Ukraine’s massive state gas company, Naftogaz, and then steer lucrative contracts to companies controlled by Trump allies.
Also involved in the plan were Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas, two of Rudy Giuliani’s clients who were helping him dig up dirt in Ukraine on Joe Biden and his family. Parnas and Fruman were indicted in Manhattan on campaign-finance violations.
“In early March,” the AP wrote, “Fruman, Parnas and Sargeant were touting a plan to replace Naftogaz CEO Andriy Kobolyev with another senior executive at the company, Andrew Favorov, according to two individuals who spoke to the AP as well as a memorandum about the meeting that was later submitted to the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, formerly known as Kiev.”
“Sargeant told Favorov that he regularly meets with Trump at Mar-a-Lago and that the gas-sales plan had the president’s full support, according to the two people who said Favorov recounted the discussion to them,” the AP wrote.
Sargeant conceded that he did attend a March 2019 dinner with Favorov, Fruman, and Parnas “to offer his views on the global oil and gas industry.” He denies discussing taking part in any venture in Ukraine. “Attending a single, informal dinner in Houston does not place Mr. Sargeant at the center of any Naftogaz or Ukrainian business plan,” Sargeant’s release states.
And what about his regular meetings with Trump at Mar-a-Lago?
Sargeant concludes his statement with a non-denial denial: “Mr. Sargeant is not a member of Mar-a-Lago and has never met there with Donald Trump since Mr. Trump has been President.”
The Sex Tape
But Ukraine is only the beginning of the intrigues that surround Sargeant, whose life is like something ripped from the pages of a spy novel.
Sargeant currently embroiled in a court case in London that involves “video material of a sexual nature” featuring Sargeant and a “successful businesswoman in a heavily regulated industry that is reputation sensitive,” according to court filings obtained by The Financial Times.
Sargeant has sued his brother, Daniel, for unlawfully obtaining sensitive photos and videos that were stored on a corporate server belonging to Sargeant Marine, a large family-owned asphalt company.
The explicit video found its way into the hands of Daniel Hall, who ran a business tracking down assets for wealthy clients. Hall obtained the sex tape as part of an effort to try and force Sargeant to pay a $28.8 million court judgement he owed to one of his former business partners.
Sargeant Marine’s name surfaced in Brazil’s “Car Wash” for allegedly paying bribes to local government officials, but Harry Sargeant says he had nothing to do with that. He was ousted from the business several years earlier amid a vicious dispute that spawned 14 lawsuits around the country He settled the case and walked away in 2015 with $56 million.
Straw Donors and Prostitutes in a Golf Cart
Harry Sargeant is also a major GOP donor and fund-raiser. Or he used to be.
Sargeant, who is close friends with former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, donated more than $1.5 million for Florida politicians and the state Republican Party, according to campaign finance records. Sargeant raised more than $500,000 for the 2008 Republican presidential campaign of U.S. Sen. John McCain.
After he was elected governor in 2006, Crist asked Sargeant to become finance chair at the Florida Republican Party.
Sargeant resigned from the post in 2009 shortly before one of his employees was indicted for making a $5,000 illegal “straw donation” to Crist and $50,000 in illegal donations to three candidates running for president: McCain, Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton.
The employee, Ala’a al-Ali, a citizen of both Jordan and the Dominican Republic, was a sales coordinator for Sargeant Marine. He remains a fugitive.
Allegations surfaced about a notorious 2009 men-only party in the Bahamas attended by Sargeant and Crist.
One former GOP official who attended the event testified that he saw a golf cart full of women driven by one of Sargeant’s employees at the event.
“I specifically saw a golf cart with young ladies drive by, the extent of why they were there I did not specifically know,” said the official, Delmar Johnson. “But I could presume they were prostitutes.”
The testimony came in the criminal case against former Florida GOP Party Chairman Jim Greer.
The Jordanian Royal Family
So far this story has mentioned Ukraine, Venezuela and Brazil, but there’s another country where Sargeant has major financial interests: Jordan.
Sargeant had deep ties to the Hashemite Kingdom. In 2007, Sargeant introduced his friend, then-Florida Governor Crist, to the King of Jordan.
Jordan was critical to valuable contracts Sargeant was awarded to supply fuel and oil to with the U.S. military. Not long after U.S.-led forces invaded Iraq, Sargeant emerged quickly set up a business and won a lucrative contract to provide oil, and later, jet fuel, to coalition troops in Iraq. Sargeant hired Marty Martin, formerly a senior CIA operative who ran Alec Station, the unit that hunted Osama bin Laden, for his oil business.
In 2008, not long after he introduced Crist to the King of Jordan, Sargeant was sued by Mohammed Al-Saleh, a member of the Jordanian royal family who is yet another of Sargeant’s disgruntled former business partners.
Al-Saleh, the brother-in-law of the King of Jordan, said he made the whole venture possible by arranging for the Jordanian government to issue a letter authorizing the transport of oil across Jordan.
In a complaint filed in Palm Beach Circuit Court, Al-Saleh claimed that Sargeant had “conspired to swindle” him out of one third of the profits from the Iraq jet fuel contracts. Sargeant, who gave Al-Saleh the nickname of “Crazy Mo,” testified that Al-Saleh tried to blackmail him.
A competitor, Supreme Fuels Trading FZE, filed a separate racketeering lawsuit in federal court claiming that the millions of dollars paid to Al-Saleh and other Jordanian officials were “bribes” meant to ensure that Sargeant’s company was the only bidder on the fuel contracts. (Supreme Fuels won a $5 million judgement against Sargeant.)
Sergeant was ordered to pay $28.8 million to Al-Saleh after a nearly three-week trial in 2011 that was “watched by note-taking men who said they worked for the federal government, included allegations of bribery of top Jordanian officials, shadowy work by a former CIA agent and Congressional claims of war-profiteering,” the Palm Beach Post reported.
By 2008, as the U.S. occupation of Iraq wore on, Sargeant’s Florida company, International Oil Trading Co., had earned profits of $210 million off military fuel deliveries in Iraq.
That eye-popping figure and Sargeant’s connection to GOP straw donors attracted the attention of Congressman Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
In 2008, Congressman Waxman accused Sargeant of overcharging by 36 cents a gallon for jet fuel and engaging in a “reprehensible form of war profiteering.”
Between 2004 and 2010, Sargeant’s company won four contracts for the supply of fuel to U.S. troops in Iraq through Jordan valued at $3.1 billion.
An audit by the Defense Department’s Inspector General, initiated at Waxman’s request, found that the Pentagon paid Sargeant’s company “$160 [million] to $204 million (or 6 to 7 percent) more for fuel than could be supported by price or cost analysis.”
That, however, was not the final word. Sargeant sued the Defense Department and emerged with a settlement for $40 million.
Yet another Department of Defense internal investigation concluded “no fraud vulnerabilities were identified” in his company’s contracts to provide jet fuel in Iraq.
One thing is clear from all this: Where Sargeant goes, trouble follows.