Steve Mnuchin expected to launch investment fund with backing from Persian Gulf countries

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Steven Mnuchin plans to start an investment fund backed with money from Persian Gulf nations and other investors, it has been reported.

Mnuchin, who served as Treasury Secretary in the Trump administration, has already started hiring for the fund, sources told the Washington Post.

The Washington-based fund is expected to raise money from sovereign wealth funds from the region frequented by Mnuchin during his time serving the Trump administration, according to the outlet.

President Donald Trump and his administration strongly supported Middle East nations, viewing Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates as necessary allies in controlling Iran.

Former US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, second right, greets the emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, second left, at the Treasury Department in 2019

Steve Mnuchin, left, meets with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right, in October 2018

The fund is expected to focus on sectors including financial technology and entertainment, the outlet reported. 

Sources told the Washington Post that Mnuchin will raise money from sovereign wealth funds, which are state-owned funds typically made up of bank reserves, revenues from natural resources and trade surpluses.

Many of the world’s largest investment funds are managed by Middle East nations, according to the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute.

The United Arab Emirates and Kuwait have the fourth and fifth largest funds, $579.6billion and $533.7billion respectively, behind Norway, China and the Hong Kong Monetary Authority Investment Portfolio.

The United Arab Emirates also has a second top fund, with its Investment Corporation of Dubai placing tenth with more than $301.5billion. A third fund, Mubadala Investment Company, is placed 13th.

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund is eighth on the list with $399.5billion, and Qatar is placed 11th on the list.

Before joining the Trump administration, Mnuchin worked as a Wall Street executive and film producer. He was succeeded by Janet Yellen after President Joe Biden took office.

Mnuchin often went on diplomatic trips to the Middle East in a bid to combat terrorism financing visited Sudan, Egypt, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar in some of his final weeks as Treasury Secretary.

He had also planned to visit Kuwait – but the trip was cut short after the January 6 riot at the United States Capitol, according to the outlet.

U.S. President Donald Trump, center, speaks during a meeting with Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah, Kuwait’s emir, in 2018. Mnuchin is pictured second from left.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and the US Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin, left, deliver a statement following their meeting in Jerusalem, in January

Mnuchin, left, and Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani arrive to an agreement signing ceremony in the Bahraini capital Manama on October 18

It remains unclear if Mnuchin will seek funds from Saudi Arabia or the UAE governments but the revelation has already raised ethics concerns over the former administration’s interactions with the two nations. 

In October 2018, Mnuchin met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in October 2018 – who ordered the brutal assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi weeks earlier.

In 2019, Trump vetoed three resolutions passed by Congress with bipartisan support  to stop several arms sales benefiting Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The Trump administration has been slammed by Democrats and human rights groups for backing Saudi Arabia and the UAE in Yemen’s civil war, according to the Washington Post.

Mark Weisbrot, an economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said: ‘It would be terrible if Mnuchin or other Trump officials were to cash in on this now.’

‘Hundreds of thousands of people in Yemen have died for the Trump administration’s relationship with the Saudi and UAE governments,’ he said.