Justice charges men as unregistered agents for Pakistan

The Justice Department charged two individuals Tuesday with acting as unregistered foreign agents for Pakistan.

Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai and Zaheer Ahmad are charged in a one-count criminal complaint alleging that they violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) by not registering their lobbying work on behalf of the Pakistani government. 

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Fai serves as the director of the Kashmiri American Council (KAC), a group based in Washington that works to raise awareness about the conflict in Kashmir. 

The Justice Department alleges that the group funneled money from Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency in order to further Pakistan's interests and unite Kashmir. 

Fai repeatedly denied being a foreign agent for Pakistan in interviews with FBI agents and a letter to the Justice Department. 

Fai was arrested Tuesday morning, while Ahmad is believed to be in Pakistan, according to Justice. If convicted, they could face up to five years in prison or fines of up to $10,000.

"FARA is designed to ensure that the U.S. government and American public know the underlying source of information and identity of persons attempting to influence U.S. policy and laws. The defendants are accused of thwarting this process by concealing the fact that a foreign government was funding and directing their lobbying and public relations efforts in America," said Lisa Monaco, assistant attorney general for national security, in a statement.

Fai — described as a Fairfax, Va., resident by Justice — has donated $28,290 since 1990, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Some notable recipients included the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, President Obama's 2008 presidential campaign and former Vice President Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign.

The lawmaker to whom Fai donated the most, Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), received a total of $10,290 from him.

No evidence has been found that shows any of the donor recipients knew the money allegedly came from the Pakistani government. 

Fai and the Kashmiri American Council are estimated to have received more than $4 million since the mid-1990s from the Pakistani government, according to Justice's affidavit.

Documents obtained by the FBI in the course of the investigation show that the Council’s goal was to influence U.S. government policy. In 2000, a strategy memo for the group stated its two top objectives included “(1) persuade the administration that self-determination in Kashmir would advance the national interests of the United States [and] (2) influence Congress, with the House International Relations and the Senate Foreign Relations Committees being the centerpieces of KACs advocacy effort.”

A similar memo emailed between Fai and one of his handlers in the Pakistani government summed up his lobbying in 2007. Fai listed 33 meetings with lawmakers, congressional aides and officials in the White House and the State Department, according to the affidavit.

According to documents obtained by Justice, Fai asked his Pakistani government handlers for $100,000 to donate to lawmakers' campaigns as well as another $100,000 to set up a forum on Kashmir “to be hosted by members of Congress.” Fai’s handler told him he could have an increase, “but not as deasired [sic].”

Pakistan's government said it had no knowledge regarding the case. 

“Mr. Fai is not a Pakistani citizen and the government and embassy of Pakistan have no knowledge of the case involving him,” said a spokesman for the Pakistani embassy. 

Messages left by The Hill for Fai were not returned for this article.


—This story was updated at 3:43 p.m.