Former Clinton-era independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr has become the public face of a new nonprofit that’s combating corruption, white-collar fraud, and cronyism in countries that lack the rule-of-law protections that are the norm in the United States and other Western nations.
The new organization, called the Global Justice Foundation, was launched last month by international businessman Omar Ayesh, a Palestinian-Canadian who resides in the United States, and will initially focus on the Middle Eastern nations of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, two countries friendly to the United States but not known for having independent judiciaries and respecting the rule of law, in general.
Alleged corruption in Saudi Arabia and the UAE has attracted international attention but has been overshadowed recently by President Donald Trump’s attempts to strengthen ties with the two oil-rich Arab countries.
At the same time, Mohammed bin Zayed, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and the de facto ruler of the UAE and reportedly the mentor of Mohammed bin Salman, himself the crown prince and de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, has been reaching out to Trump. Zayed has reportedly convinced Trump to adopt an aggressive stance against his enemies, including the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Trump administration is reportedly considering designating the Muslim Brotherhood, which the Obama administration openly supported, as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). Just two months ago, the Trump administration designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a FTO, the first time the U.S. has ever named a part of another government as a FTO. The IRGC controls as much as half of Iran’s economy. The FTO designation means anyone who does business with the IRGC could be criminally prosecuted for providing material support to a terrorist organization.
Ayesh has a personal stake in rooting out corruption. He claims to be the victim of a large real estate fraud that has been tied up in the UAE courts for 11 years.
“My case is similar to other cases which will be taken by the Global Justice Foundation,” Ayesh said.
“Our mission at the Global Justice Foundation is to shine the light, raise awareness, and educate people about different cases, so they know how to avoid becoming victims. It is most important to send a clear message that whenever there is a case and evidence there is corruption, we will do all the investigation and shine the light on corruption.”
Starr sympathizes with Ayesh.
“No one is above the law, which is easy to say and hard to achieve. Especially when you have power, and you have the power to order the transcending of the law,” Starr said at a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington last month. “Omar’s saga of being in court for 11 years. There needs to be an avenue where disputes, commercial and otherwise, can be quickly and fairly addressed.”
“The very first function of governments is to establish justice,” Starr continued. “If you don’t have a just society, you don’t have anything worth preserving, because there will be fundamental unrest and profound instability.”
Journalist and election-fraud expert John Fund, formerly of The Wall Street Journal, serves as a senior adviser to the group.
“This organization comes in a particularly appropriate time in both the economic and political world situation we have,” Fund said. “No one is above the law, and contracts and agreements between people must be honored with fair and equitable standards attached.”
Former federal prosecutor Sidney Powell chairs the foundation’s board.
“I am honored to be part of this foundation,” she said.
“Now, we want to, with Omar’s vision, help push criminal justice reform worldwide. We have a huge problem worldwide; business requires certainty within which to operate. … If Dubai wants to be the financial capital of the Middle East, it’s going to have to create a legal system that pays more than lip service to the rule of law. It has to actually enforce the rule of law.”
Also on the group’s board are former U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) and Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican National Committee.
Starr is a lawyer with a wealth of experience; he is best known for his work as independent counsel while President Bill Clinton was in office.
He was initially appointed to examine the suicide of White House deputy counsel Vince Foster and the Whitewater real estate investments of President Clinton. His investigation was expanded to cover Clinton’s misrepresentations about his sexual relationship with then-White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Clinton lied under oath about the relationship and was subsequently impeached in December 1998 by the U.S. House of Representatives. Although the Senate failed to convict Clinton on the articles of impeachment, his law license was suspended for five years.
Starr also was a federal Court of Appeals judge and solicitor general under President George H.W. Bush. He also served as president and chancellor of Baylor University and held the Louise L. Morrison chair of constitutional law at Baylor University Law School.