From the Seychelles to the White House to Cambridge Analytica, Erik Prince and the UAE are key parts of the Trump story

Wendy Siegelman
Apr 9, 2018 · 14 min read

In January 2017 Erik Prince attended a meeting in the Seychelles with the United Arab Emirate’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund Kirill Dmitriev, and George Nader, a former consultant for Erik Prince’s company Blackwater.

While Erik Prince testified in November 2017 to the House Intelligence Committee that the meeting with Dmitriev was unplanned, news broke last week that Mueller has evidence that Prince’s meeting with Putin’s ally Dmitriev may not have been a chance encounter, contradicting Prince’s sworn testimony. And, according to George Nader, a main purpose of the meeting was to set up a communication channel between the Russian government and the incoming Trump administration.

Earlier this year, a seemingly unrelated scandal erupted after a story broke about Trump’s data company Cambridge Analytica harvesting Facebook data on tens of millions of people. Shortly after that a Channel 4 News investigation revealed undercover film of Cambridge Analytica executives bragging about the dirty tricks they use to influence elections.

As the Cambridge Analytica scandal was unfolding, I broke the story about a new company Emerdata Limited, created by Cambridge Analytica executives, that in early 2018 added new board members Rebekah and Jennifer Mercer, Cheng Peng, Chun Shun Ko Johnson, who is a business partner of Erik Prince, and Ahmed Al Khatib, a ‘Citizen of Seychelles’.

In 2017 as Cambridge Analytica executives created Emerdata, they were also working on behalf of the UAE through SCL Social, which had a $330,000 contract to run a social media campaign for the UAE against Qatar, featuring the theme #BoycottQatar. One of the Emerdata directors may have ties to the UAE and the company name, coincidentally, sounds like a play on Emirati-Data…Emerdata.

The United Arab Emirates and people advocating for the interests of the UAE — including Prince, Nader, and Trump fundraiser Elliot Broidy who has done large business deals with the UAE — have started to appear frequently in news related to Mueller’s investigation. Erik Prince, the brother of the U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, lived in the UAE, attended the Seychelles meeting with the UAE’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, is business partners with Chun Shun Ko who just joined the board of the new Cambridge Analytica/SCL company Emerdata, and SCL had a large contract to work on behalf of the UAE.

To better understand the role Erik Prince and the UAE have played in the Trump-Russia story — and in the much broader story of global political influence, and often corruption — below is a timeline tracking some key events. Not all events are related, but reviewing the information chronologically may help answer a few questions, including: Why was the UAE involved in a meeting with Erik Prince to set up a communication channel with Russia? Is the UAE involved with Cambridge Analytica’s new company Emerdata? Does Erik Prince have any connection to Cambridge Analytica, even if only indirectly through Chun Shun Ko, Steve Bannon, or the Mercers? And what role has the UAE had in influencing the Trump administration?

Note: this timeline may be updated periodically to include new pertinent information. Each event below includes the source data link. Name variations (e.g. Chun Shun Ko Johnson vs Johnson Ko Chun-shun) reflect how names are presented by each source.


  • In a deposition Erik Prince said he had previously hired George Nader to help Blackwater as a “business development consultant that we retained in Iraq” because the company was looking for contracts with the Iraqi government. New York Times


  • Sheik Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan of Abu Dhabi hired Erik Prince to build a fighting force, paying $529 million to build an army. Additionally, Prince “worked with the Emirati government on various ventures…including an operation using South African mercenaries to train Somalis to fight pirates.” New York Times


  • Erik Prince, who worked and lived in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, created Frontier Resource Group, an Africa-dedicated investment firm partnered with major Chinese enterprises. South China Morning Post


  • The Russian Direct Investment Fund led by CEO Kirill Dmitriev, and the UAE’s Mubadala Development Company based in Abu Dhabi, launched a $2 billion co-investment fund to pursue opportunities in Russia. PR Newswire


  • January: Erik Prince was named Chairman of DVN Holdings, controlled by Hong Kong businessman Johnson Ko Chun-shun and Chinese state-owned Citic Group. DVN’s board proposed that the firm be renamed Frontier Services Group. South China Morning Post


  • August/September: Erik Prince donated $150,000 to Make America Number 1, a pro-Trump PAC for which Robert Mercer has been the largest funder. Open Secrets


January 2017

  • One week prior to the meeting in the Seychelles, sources reported that George Nader met with Erik Prince and later sent him information on Kirill Dmitriev, the CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, contradicting Prince’s sworn testimony to the House Intelligence Committee that the meeting with Kirill Dmitriev in the Seychelles was unexpected. ABC News

February 2017

  • “After decades of close political and defense proximity with the United States, the United Arab Emirates have concluded three major agreements with Russia which could lead to its air force being ultimately re-equipped with Russian combat aircraft.” Defense Aerospace

March 2017

  • Elliott Broidy, a top GOP and Trump fundraiser with hundreds of millions of dollars in business deals with the UAE, sent George Nader a spreadsheet outlining a proposed $12.7 million campaign against Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood. Broidy also sent an email to George Nader referring to Secure America Now as a group he worked with. New York Times

April 2017

  • Jared Kushner’s father Charles Kushner met with Qatar’s minister of finance Ali Sharif Al Emadi to discuss financing of Kushner Companies’ 666 Fifth Avenue building. Intercept

May 2017

  • May 20–21: Donald Trump made his first overseas trip to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, accompanied by Jared Kushner, Steve Bannon and others. On his first day there Trump signed a joint “strategic vision” that included $110 billion in American arms sales and other investments. Washington Post

June 2017

  • June 5: The Gulf Cooperation Council members Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt released coordinated statements accusing Qatar of supporting terrorist groups and saying that as a result they were cutting links to the country by land, sea and air. Washington Post

July 2017

  • U.S. intelligence officials confirmed that the UAE orchestrated the hack of Qatari government news and social media sites with incendiary false quotes attributed to Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani. Washington Post

August 2017

  • Emerdata Limited was incorporated in the UK with SCL/Cambridge Analytica’s Chairman Julian Wheatland and Chief Data Officer Alexander Tayler as significant owners. Company filing

September 2017

  • Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix and Steve Bannon both presented at the CSLA Investors’ Forum in Hong Kong. CLSA is part of Citic Securities, which is part of Citic Group, the majority owner of Erik Prince and Ko Chun Shun Johnson’s Frontier Services Group. Bloomberg Tweet

October 2017

  • October 6: Elliott Broidy, whose company Circinus has had hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts with the UAE, met Trump and suggested Trump meet with the UAE’s Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan. Broidy said Trump thought it was good idea. Broidy also “personally urged Mr. Trump to fire Mr. Tillerson, whom the Saudis and Emiratis saw as insufficiently tough on Iran and Qatar.” New York Times

November 2017

  • November 4: A week after Kushner’s visit Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman, launched an anti-corruption crackdown and arrested dozens of members of the Saudi royal family. Per three sources “Crown Prince Mohammed told confidants that Kushner had discussed the names of Saudis disloyal to the crown prince.” However, “Kushner, through his attorney’s spokesperson, denies having done so.” Another source said Mohammed bin Salman told UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed that Kushner was “in his pocket.” The Intercept

December 2017

  • Buzzfeed broke a story on how Erik Prince had pitched the Trump administration on a plan to hire him to privatize the Afghan war and mine Afghanistan’s valuable minerals. A slide presentation of Prince’s pitch described Afghanistan’s rich deposits of minerals with an estimated value of $1 trillion, and described his plan as “a strategic mineral resource extraction funded effort.” Buzzfeed


January 2018

  • George Nader emailed a request to Elliott Broidy saying the leader of the UAE asked Trump to call the crown prince of Saudi Arabia to smooth over potential bad feelings created by the book “Fire and Fury.” Nader also reiterated to Broidy the desire of the ruler of the UAE to meet alone with Trump. Days later as Nader went to meet Broidy at Mar-a-lago to celebrate the anniversary of the inauguration, he was met at Dulles Airport by FBI agents working for Mueller. New York Times

January to March 2018

  • Emerdata Limited added new directors Alexander Nix, Johnson Chun Shun Ko, Cheng Peng, Ahmad Al Khatib, Rebekah Mercer, and Jennifer Mercer. Johnson Chun Shun Ko is the business partner of Erik Prince. Ahmad Al Khatib is identified as ‘Citizen of Seychelles’. Shares were issued valued at 1,912,512 GBP. Emerdata article

March 2018

  • March 13: A key goal of UAE political advisor George Nader, and Elliott Broidy who had hundreds of millions of dollars of business with the UAE, was accomplished, and Rex Tillerson was fired. New York Times

April 2018

  • Sources reported that “Special Counsel Robert Mueller has obtained evidence that calls into question Congressional testimony given by Trump supporter and Blackwater founder Erik Prince last year, when he described a meeting in Seychelles with a Russian financier close to Vladimir Putin as a casual chance encounter “over a beer.”” ABC News


  • February: $1.2 billion debt on Kushner Companies’ 666 Fifth Avenue building becomes due. Bloomberg

Photo credits: Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan Erik Prince

Updated September 11, 2018: added Donald Trump partnered with UAE developer Hussain Sajwani to manage several UAE golf courses starting in 2013, Donald Trump purchased Scottish Turnberry golf resort from Dubai state-owned company in 2014, Nigel Oakes changed his country of residence to the UAE in July 2017.

Wendy Siegelman

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