Trump inauguration donor will plead guilty to falsifying records to hide his work as foreign agent

Trump inauguration donor will plead guilty to falsifying records to hide his work as foreign agent
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A California financier and donor to Trump’s inauguration agreed to plead guilty to federal charges of falsifying records to hide his work as foreign agent when lobbying “high-level U.S. government officials,” the Justice Department said in a release Tuesday.

Imaad Shah Zuberi, 49, used millions of dollars from clients intending to influence the American government for his personal use. Zuberi also agreed he would plead guilty to charges of tax evasion and making nearly $1 million in illegal campaign contributions, according to the release. He faces a maximum of 15 years in federal prison. 

Zuberi, who ran Avenue Ventures, a venture capital firm, told his clients from foreign nations and from foreign governments that he could influence U.S. lawmakers to adjust foreign policy and develop business opportunities, according to the release. He used the money to hire lobbyists, reserve public relations firms and make campaign contributions, which the press release says “gave him access to high-level U.S. officials, some of whom took action in support of his clients.”

“Mr. Zuberi’s multi-faceted scheme allowed him to line his pockets by concealing the fact that he was representing foreign clients, obtaining access for clients by making a long series of illegal contributions, and skimming money paid by his clients,” U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna said. “Mr. Zuberi circumvented laws designed to insulate U.S. policy and our election process from foreign intervention. This investigation has halted his illegal conduct, will result in several felony convictions, and could send him to prison for a lengthy period of time.”

One of Zuberi’s clients was the Sri Lankan government, which wanted to improve its image in the U.S. Zuberi vowed to use the $6.5 million the government gave him for lobbying, legal expenses and media buys. Instead, he used more than $5.65 million for himself and his wife and paid less than $850,000 to lobbyists, public relations firms and law firms, claiming the country “had not provided sufficient funds.” 

Zuberi estimated he evaded anywhere from $3.5 million to $9.5 million in taxes between 2012 and 2015 after not reporting the millions of dollars he received from Sri Lanka.

Most of Zuberi’s influencing efforts were described as “unsuccessful,” causing his clients to incur “significant losses.” He also reportedly denied payment to lobbyists, public relations workers and other subcontractors he worked with, according to the release. 

Zuberi also collected more than $1.1 million for himself from two foreign companies after assuring them the money would be used for political campaigns. 

Authorities suspect Zuberi also made more than $250,000 in illegal campaign contributions between 2012 and 2016. He is scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court on Oct. 30 as the FBI and IRS continue to investigate his case.

The Daily Beast reported Zuberi donated $900,000 to Trump’s inaugural committee.