A Virginia man was sentenced Friday to two years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, in connection with a decades-long scheme to secretly receive millions of dollars from the government of Pakistan to influence U.S. policy toward the disputed region of Kashmir.
Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai was arrested last July for concealing at least $3.5 million in contributions from Pakistan's powerful military intelligence service, the ISI, to lobby the U.S. government's position on Kashmir. Fai pleaded guilty in December to both counts in a criminal indictment that included conspiracy to act as an unregistered agent of a foreign government in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) and tax violations.
Fai served as the director of the Kashmiri American Council (KAC), a Washington D.C.-based lobbying and public relations firm dedicated to raising awareness about the struggle of the Kashmiri people for self-determination. Court documents claim the ISI annually contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars for KAC lobbying efforts including "campaign contributions to members of Congress, conferences, seminars, opinion pieces to be distributed to newspapers, and Congressional trips to Kashmir."
Fai's co-defendant Zaheer Ahmad, an American citizen living in Pakistan at the time, helped transfer money to the KAC from the ISI and the government in Pakistan through middlemen (straw donors) operating businesses and charities. The straw donors were reimbursed by Ahmad for their supposed "donations" to the KAC. Ahmad died of a stroke in September.
In his plea agreement, Fai admitted that from 1990 through July 2011, he secretly obtained funds from the Pakistani government, including the ISI, to run the KAC. In various statements to federal law enforcement, he concealed his funding source. In March 2007, Fai denied being affiliated with any officials of the ISI to FBI agents. In a 2009 IRS tax return for the KAC, he falsely claimed the organization had not received any funding from foreign sources in 2008. In addition, in an April 2010 letter to the Justice Department, Fai falsely declared, "KAC or I never engaged in any activities or provided any services to any foreign entities."
The Investigative Project on Terrorism reported earlier on Fai's ties to a leading Hamas front group in the U.S. Fai has also been alleged to channel funds to the Hizbul Mujahideen that has been designated by Indian and European authorities as a terrorist organization.
"Mr. Fai spent 20 years operating the Kashmiri American Council as a front for Pakistani intelligence," said U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride in a Department of Justice press release. "He lied to the Justice Department, the IRS and many political leaders throughout the United States as he pushed the ISI's propaganda on Kashmir."