The Pakistani government, including its notorious intelligence agency, used unregistered agents on U.S. soil to funnel millions of dollars and illegally influenced the U.S. government, the Justice Department said today.
Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai, an American citizen, was arrested this morning in Virginia by the FBI and charged with moving money that came from Pakistan through an organization he headed in Washington called the Kashmiri American Council (KAC).
Another man, Zaheer Ahmed was also charged in the one count criminal complaint with being an unregistered foreign agent. Zaheer allegedly served as the conduit for the funds to be transferred to Fai which came from about 10 straw donors. Ahmed, a U.S. citizen, is currently believed to be living in Pakistan.
According to a Federal Elections Commission records search, Fai donated $23,500 to political candidates from both parties. Going back to 1997, Fai donated $9,500 to National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, $7,500 to Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN) and $1,000 to Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA), $500 to Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) $250 to the Obama campaign and $250 to Al Gore.
Under U.S. law individuals who work or represent the interests of foreign governments are required to register their status as foreign agents with the Attorney General. According to federal investigators, Fai's funds – about $500,000 a year – came directly from the Government of Pakistan.
The FBI's affidavit notes that the Kashmiri American Council had been active and planning a strategy to persuade and influence the administration and Congress about Kashmir's right to self determination – from organizing high profile conferences to contacting congressmen directly. That committee, the FBI said, has received as much as $4 million from the Pakistani government since the mid-1990s.
Burton has been a vocal member in Congress in support of free elections in Kashmir and has criticized the Indian government for their claims there.
Burton told ABC News he had "no inkling" that Fai was involved with any foreign intelligence operation, as the U.S. government alleges, despite knowing him for 20 years.
"For as long as I've known him, Dr. Fai has been either a permanent legal resident of the United States or a citizen and as such any political contributions I may have received from Dr. Fai over the years are completely legal," Burton said. "My campaign does not accept contributions from anyone not legally authorized to donate to U.S. political campaigns. However, if there is any doubt about the origin of these contributions, I will donate those funds to the Boy Scouts of America."
Representatives for Moran declined to comment for this report and Kucinich's office did not immediately reply for requests for comment.
According to Justice Department officials the men were only interested in lobbying and were not trying to obtain sensitive information and, therefore, have not been charged with espionage.
Witness: American Directed by Pakistani Intelligence
The FBI became alerted to the men's activities through the use of two confidential witnesses who provided information the FBI about the men's operations. According to the FBI affidavit, one of the witnesses told investigators that Fai received instructions and tasking orders from Pakistani intelligence through a retired Brigadier General named Javeed Aziz Khan.
The FBI affidavit notes that Khan had emailed Fai in April 9, 2009 in an effort to make Secretary of State Hillary Clinton make a statement about Kashmir.
"On April 20 and 21, 2009, Fai faxed letters to numerous members of Congress, requesting them to raise the subject of Kashmir with the Secretary of State during her congressional testimony on those days. I believe that in doing so, Fai acted in response to Khan's tasking to attempt to get a US Official to make a statement on Kashmir."
"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," said US Attorney for the eastern district of Virginia Neil MacBride. "His handlers in Pakistan allegedly funneled millions through the Kashmir Center to contribute to U.S. elected officials, fund high-profile conferences, and pay for other efforts that promoted the Kashmiri cause to decision-makers in Washington."
An attorney for Mr. Fai could not be located on Tuesday. If convicted, he faces a maximum of 5 years in prison.