A Pakistani-American venture capitalist has been sentenced to 12 years in prison and fined USD 1.75 million for falsifying records to hide his work as an unregistered foreign agent while lobbying high-level US officials.
Imaad Shah Zuberi, 50, a California resident, was sentenced by US District Judge Virginia A Phillips, who also ordered him to pay USD 15,705,080 in restitution and a criminal fine of USD 1.75 million, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) said in a statement.
"Zuberi turned acting as an unregistered foreign agent into a business enterprise. He used foreign money to fund illegal campaign contributions that bought him political influence, and used that influence to lobby US officials for policy changes on behalf of numerous foreign principals," said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C Demers.
"He not only concealed his lucrative agreements with those foreign principals but also made false statements about them in a Foreign Agents Registration Act(FARA) filing," he said.
After learning he was under investigation, Zuberi doubled down on his criminal conduct, obstructing justice by creating false records, destroying evidence, and attempting to purchase witnesses' silence, Demers said.
In November 2019, Zuberi pleaded guilty to a three-count information charging him with violating the FARA by making false statements on a FARA filing, tax evasion, and making illegal campaign contributions. In June 2020, he pleaded guilty in a separate case to one count of obstruction of justice, Pakistani newspaper ''The News'' reported on Sunday.
"Zuberi flouted federal laws that restrict foreign influences upon our government and prohibit injecting foreign money into our political campaigns. He enriched himself by defrauding his clients and evading the payment of taxes," said Acting US Attorney Tracy L Wilkison for the Central District of California.
"As Mr Zuberi's greed and wealth increased, his elaborate influence-peddling scheme collapsed. By lending a veneer of credibility through name dropping and flashing photos with high-level government officials, Zuberi was able to con foreign donors," said Assistant Director in Charge Kristi K Johnson of the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office.
"Now that he's been sentenced, he will be held accountable by the United States government which he so recklessly misrepresented." Johnson said.
Zuberi was sentenced for falsifying records to conceal his work as a foreign agent while lobbying high-level US government officials, evading the payment of millions of dollars in taxes, making illegal campaign contributions, and obstructing a federal investigation into the source of donations to a presidential inauguration committee, the DoJ statement said on Thursday.
According to the Dawn newspaper, In December 2016, Zuberi donated USD 900,000 to the Trump inaugural committee and was a top fundraiser for former President Barack Obama's re-election campaign in 2012.
He donated at least USD 100,000 for Hilary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign and also raised funds for Republican Senator Lindsey Graham in 2014, and then-California Attorney General Kamala Harris, now vice president, in 2015, the report said.
"The violations were part of a larger surreptitious effort to route foreign money into US elections and to use it to corrupt the US policy-making processes," prosecutors said in a court filing.
They urged the court to reject Zuberi's claim that funnelling money to influence US policy-making and elections was the "way America works".
Prosecutors accused Zuberi of soliciting foreign nationals and representatives of foreign governments, offering to use his influence in Washington to alter US foreign policy and to create business opportunities for his clients, the report said.
"Through myriad international contacts and business partners, Zuberi was able to raise money and gain influence among the US' highest political circles. Zuberi used his status to solicit funds for lobbying, campaign contributions, and investments, but ultimately swindled his business partners and pocketed most of the funds for himself," said Special Agent in Charge Ryan Korner of IRS-Criminal Investigation Los Angeles Field Office.
"An opportunist at his core, Zuberi worked with political figures across the aisle, depending on who was in power, to lend an appearance of credibility to his political charades," Korner was quoted as saying in the official statement.
Zuberi was born in Pakistan, migrated to the United States with his parents when he was three years old, and eventually became an American citizen.
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