TEL AVIV — Hours before heading to jail Monday, former Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos revealed that he met with the co-founder of an Israeli cyber-intelligence company, in June of last year, on the same day he received $10,000 in cash from Israeli businessman George Tawil.
Papadopoulos claimed the meeting with Shai Arbel, co-founder of Israeli cyber-intelligence company Terrogence, was part of a scheme to plant marked hundred-dollar bills on him that would incriminate him when FBI agents searched his luggage upon his return to the US.
Papadopoulos, who began serving a 14-day sentence Monday for lying to the FBI in the Trump-Russia investigation, wrote to The Times of Israel via text message on Monday that Tawil had introduced him to Arbel “for no apparent purpose except to frame me.”
He said Arbel told him he “runs a program that had the FBI as a client,” and described the meeting as “a bizarre encounter to have right before Tawil gives me $10,000,” referring to a cash payment that Tawil describes as an advance on income from business ventures the two men were planning
Papadopoulos was arrested July 27, 2017, after landing at Washington Dulles International Airport. He has said FBI agents searched his luggage looking for cash, however, the charges against him are not related to the money he received from Tawil.
Both Tawil and Arbel confirmed that the cyber executive was present at a June 8 meeting at the Crowne Plaza Tel Aviv City Center Hotel. That was the same day and place where Tawil gave Papadopoulos the 100 hundred-dollar bills. Tawil said the appointment with Arbel was a routine business meeting over coffee in the hotel lounge, during which Arbel introduced Tawil and Papadopoulos to the founders of an Arabic language digital marketing company based in Nazareth.
“I meet with many people from different countries for business development purposes,” texted Arbel, who is currently out of the country, on Monday. “I met Papadopoulos, and, like many other business opportunities, nothing came of it.” Arbel added, “I didn’t plan to frame anyone.”
The founder of the Nazareth company, who asked not to be named, said he could not recall the meeting.
Papadopoulos also said Tawil’s characterization of him as “broke” when they met was “laughable,” citing as proof that he left the $10,000 Tawil gave him with his lawyers in Greece. Papadopoulos said Congress will be examining the cash in order to see if the hundred dollar bills are marked and can help discover the “sting operation” he has alleged.
Tawil has vigorously dismissed the claims he framed Papadopoulos, saying he had every reason to believe Papadopoulos was planning to stay away from America. “He told me that he will not return to the USA until Trump stabilizes his government,” Tawil said Monday.
He forwarded The Times of Israel a screenshot of a WhatsApp exchange dated July 7, 2017, indicating that the two men were still in contact to launch consultancy projects a month after the Tel Aviv encounter. In the message, Papadopoulos notified Tawil that he and his future-wife, Simona Mangiante, had been offered jobs at the European Parliament in Brussels.
“Of course, I prefer working with you than to some job in the EU commission,” wrote Papadopoulos, “but need to know that we are still working together you and I on the deals and with retainer monthly. If yes, am 100% fine, but need to know your thoughts.”