US charges two illegal lobbyers, ISI funelled $4 mn to influence Kashmir policy

The US has accused two men with being unregistered lobbyists of funneling millions of dollars on behalf of Pakistan’s intelligence service in payments to US officials, and other efforts to influence Washington’s policy.

Federal Bureau of Investigation agents on Tuesday arrested Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai, of Fairfax, Va., director of the Kashmiri American Council. Mr. Fai, 62 years old, is charged with violating U.S. law that requires lobbyists for foreign countries to register with the Justice Department.

In a 43-page affidavit, Sarah Webb Linden, a special FBI agent in charge of the case, accuses Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai and Zaheer Ahmad, two US citizens, of conspiring to use a Washington-based non-governmental organisation, the Kashmiri American Council, or Kashmir Centre, as a conduit for Pakistani government funds intended to alter US policy on Kashmir.

Affidavit claims Pakistan’s security and intelligence establishment has spent $4 million over two decades in a covert attempt to tilt American policy against India’s control of much of Kashmir – including funnelling campaign donations to members of Congress and presidential candidates.

According to Fox News, for years, the Pakistani spy agency funelled millions of dollars to a Washington nonprofit group in a secret effort to influence Congress and the White House, the Justice Department said.

FBI agents arrested Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai, the executive director of the Kashmiri American Council, on Tuesday and charged him with being an unregistered agent of a foreign government. Under the supervision of a senior member of Pakistan’s spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, Fai donated money to political campaigns, wrote newspaper op-eds, organized congressional trips and met with White House and State Department officials.

“I believe that Fai has received approximately $500,000 to $700,000 per year from the government of Pakistan,” FBI agent Sarah Webb Linden said in documents filed in federal court in Alexandria, Va.

Officially, the Kashmiri American Council had a much smaller budget and told the U.S. government that it received no foreign grants, according to Internal Revenue Service documents. Pakistan was financing similar operations in London and Brussels, the Justice Department said.

The Pakistani Embassy quickly issued a statement saying the government had no knowledge of such an arrangement.
A second man, Zaheer Ahmad, was also charged. Prosecutors said he recruited people to act as straw donors who would give money to the Kashmiri American Council that really was coming from the Pakistani government. Ahmad is not under arrest and is in Pakistan, prosecutors said. Both men are U.S. citizens.

Prosecutors said the Kashmiri American Council was being run in secret by the Pakistani government. Fai coordinated his activities with his ISI handlers and often communicated in coded emails, the FBI said. Pakistani officials reviewed Fai’s budget and told him what to do and with whom to meet.

“You are aware that we have been working together for the cause for over a decade now,” Fai wrote in an email to a senior ISI official in 1995. “All these years, I have closely worked with you and others who came before you. It has taken us much time, energy, dedication, strategy and planning to achieve our common cause.”

Fai, who is a known Kashmiri separatist in the US, heads the Washington-based Kashmiri American Council (KAC) that lobbies for self-determination for Kashmir.

The money funnelled into the US was also meant for campaign donations to members of Congress and presidential candidates, according to the FBI.

The affidavit alleges that Fai acted at the direction of the Pakistani government for more than 20 years, adding that four Pakistani government handlers directed his US activities. Fai got in touch with his Pakistani handlers “more than 4,000 times” since June 2008. His handlers also communicated with Ahmad regularly.

According to the affidavit, a confidential witness told investigators that the money was transferred to Fai through Ahmad. Another confidential witness told investigators that the ISI created the KAC to “propagandize on behalf of the government of Pakistan with the goal of uniting Kashmir.”

The two men stand accused of concealing the fact that a foreign government was funding and directing their lobbying and public relations efforts in America, said Lisa Monaco, US assistant attorney general.

“His handlers in Pakistan allegedly funneled millions through the Kashmir Center to contribute to US elected officials, fund high-profile conferences, and pay for other efforts that promoted the Kashmiri cause to decision-makers in Washington,” said US Attorney Neil MacBride.

FBI Assistant Director James McJunkin said “Mr. Fai’s alleged conduct illustrates the risk to our fair and open government. The charges underscore the dedication of special agents who enforce laws-like the FARA violations charged here-that are designed to detect and defeat those who attempt to surreptitiously exert foreign influence on our government by using agents who conceal their foreign affiliations.”



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