WASHINGTON -- The Justice Department charged two men on Tuesday who are allegedly agents of the Pakistani government with failing to report that they received millions of dollars from the Pakistani government to spend on lobbying the United States government and on making political donations to members of Congress and political parties.
Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai, a Virginia resident and director of the Kashmiri American Council, is allegedly an agent of the Pakistani government receiving directions on running a secret lobbying operation that directed contributions to a dozen candidates and three party organizations over twenty years. He was arrested and is being charged for failing to register as a foreign lobbyist under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA).
“Mr. Fai is accused of a decades-long scheme with one purpose -- to hide Pakistan’s involvement behind his efforts to influence the U.S. government’s position on Kashmir,” according to U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride.
The FBI also charged a second man, Zaheer Ahmad, a U.S. citizen living in Pakistan, in the secret foreign lobbying scheme. Ahmad allegedly transferred money from the Pakistani spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Agency, to Fai for the use of the Kashmiri American Council. Ahmad has not been arrested and is still at large.
Relations between the United States and Pakistan have been extremely strained since the May killing of terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden by Navy Seals inside of Pakistan's borders.
“Foreign governments who try to influence the United States by using unregistered agents threaten our national security,” said James McJunkin, FBI assistant director in charge of the FBI Washington Field Office.
A review of the contributions made by Fai, and accessed through the website TransparencyData.com, showed that Fai made 28 contributions since 1989 totaling $28,790. The government states that none of the recipients had any knowledge that Fai was allegedly receiving directions from the Pakistani government. The top recipients of that money were Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) with $10,290 and the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) with $9,500 in contributions.
Burton has long been active on the issue of Kashmir, the disputed border region between India and Pakistan. In the 1990s Burton proposed an annual amendment to cut off U.S. aid to India for alleged atrocities committed by the Indian government in Kashmir. In 2004, he headed a congressional hearing into abuses in Kashmir by the Indian military that featured Fai as a key witness.
Other notable recipients include President Barack Obama, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Vice President Al Gore, and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio). The affidavit states that none of the recipients knew that Fai was running what is alleged to be a front group for a foreign government.
The government's affidavit states that "Fai and the [Kashmiri American Council] have received at least $4 million, from the Pakistani government since the mid-1990s through Ahmad and his funding network." It also states that the Council pretended to be a Kashmiri organization run and financed by Americans. The organization is alleged to have operated a $100,000-a-year account to use on political contributions.
The Kashmiri American Council is alleged to be one of three similar operations run within the United States by the Pakistani government.
The Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) was one of the first efforts to require lobbyists to register with the government. It was passed in the years before the outbreak of World War II, as fears of secret Nazi agents influencing the government swept the nation. It is the most expansive lobbyist disclosure act, with required reporting of all materials used to lobby government officials, tallies of meetings with officials and a list of campaign contributions made by the registered agents.
The Huffington Post's Dan Froomkin wrote on Monday that foreign governments are spending millions on lobbyists in Washington and that "some of that money may well be wending its way into politicians' election coffers through the generous campaign contributions those lobbyists routinely make to buy access and reward friends."