English News

  • youtube
  • facebook
  • twitter

Pakistani-American with links to Turkey sentenced to 12 years in jail for illegal funding

Zuberi found his services in demand with Turkey’s ambassador in Washington

The sentencing last week of a well-connected Pakistani-American businessman who developed a "client base among the world's Islamist-leaning regimes, most notably Turkey", has once again exposed the Islamabad-Ankara nexus operating in the United States. 

A venture capitalist and political fundraiser, 50-year-old Imaad Shah Zuberi of California was sentenced to 12 Years in prison 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.

He was also ordered to pay $15,705,080 in restitution and a criminal fine of $1.75 million.

In November 2019, Zuberi pleaded guilty to a three-count information charging him with violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) by making false statements on a FARA filing, tax evasion, and making illegal campaign contributions. In June 2020, Zuberi pleaded guilty in a separate case to one count of obstruction of justice.

Clients gave Zuberi money for consulting fees, to make investments, or to fund campaign contributions. As part of his efforts to influence public policy, Zuberi hired lobbyists, retained public relations professionals, and made campaign contributions that gave him access to high-level US officials, some of whom acted in support of his clients. As evidence of his access and influence, Zuberi distributed to his clients photographs of himself discussing policy with elected officials.

"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. He not only concealed his lucrative agreements with those foreign principals, but also made false statements about them in a FARA filing," said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers. 

According to Turkish news website Ahval, Zuberi found a particular client base among the world’s Islamist-leaning regimes, most notably Turkey.

Quoting records reviewed by the Associated Press, Ahval said Zuberi found his services in demand with Turkey’s ambassador in Washington DC, Serdar Kilic. It said that in 2015, Kilic sought out Zuberi for help in killing a resolution condemning media censorship in Turkey, something he said  "would be extremely counterproductive" before the general election that year.

"Zuberi was acquainted with both Rep. Elliot Engel (D-NY) and Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), the then chairman and ranking member respectively of the House Foreign Affairs Committee where the resolution was to receive a vote. According to an email obtained by the Associated Press, Kilic received a draft of the resolution in advance from Zuberi, who then referred to Erdogan as a "hero". The resolution, H.Res.279, ultimately died in the House Foreign Affairs Committee without getting a vote after Zuberi convinced one of its sponsors to turn against it. Both former members of Congress denied to AP that they were influenced by Zuberi on this bill," the report mentioned

It further mentioned that Zuberi did not end his work for Turkish interests after his work with Kilic as, in another instance a year later, he provided a check of $50,000 to Democratic Party donor and Turkish-American businessman Murat Guzel who serves on the board of the Turkish-American Steering Committee (TASC), an advocacy organisation that counts a cousin of President Erdogan on its board and has espoused pro-Erdogan positions in its work. 

The report detailed that Turkey was not the only one among Zuberi’s Islamist clients looking to make use of his reach.

The US Department of Justice revealed that the government of Sri Lanka had also hired Zuberi in 2014 to rehabilitate the country’s image in the United States, which had suffered because of allegations that its minority Tamil population had been persecuted. Zuberi promised to make substantial expenditures on lobbying efforts, legal expenses, and media buys, which prompted Sri Lanka to agree to pay Zuberi a total of $8.5 million over the course of six months in 2014.

"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. Now that he’s been sentenced, he will be held accountable by the United States government which he so recklessly misrepresented," said Assistant Director in Charge Kristi Johnson of the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office.