NY Times: F.B.I. Arrests Man Said to Be a Front for Donations

-By Charlie Savage and Eric Schmitt

July 19, 2011- WASHINGTON — Pakistan’s military, including its powerful spy agency, has spent $4 million over two decades in a covert attempt to tilt American policy against India’s control of much of Kashmir — including funneling campaign donations to members of Congress and presidential candidates, the F.B.I. claimed in court papers unsealed Tuesday.

The allegations of a long-running plan to influence American elections and foreign policy come at a time of deep tensions between the United States and Pakistan — and in particular its spy agency — amid the fallout over the American raid that killed Osama bin Laden at a compound deep inside Pakistan on May 2.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation made the allegations in a 43-page affidavit filed in connection with the indictment of two United States citizens on charges that they failed to register with the Justice Department as agents of Pakistan, as required by law. One of the men, Zaheer Ahmad, is in Pakistan, but the other, Syed Fai, lives in Virginia and was arrested on Tuesday.

Mr. Fai is the director of the Kashmiri American Council, a Washington-based group that lobbies for and holds conferences and media events to promote the cause of self-determination for Kashmir. According to the affidavit, the activities by the group, also called the Kashmiri Center, are largely financed by Pakistan’s spy agency, the Inter-Services Directorate Intelligence, or I.S.I., along with as much as $100,000 a year in related donations to political campaigns in the United States. Foreign governments are prohibited from making donations to American political candidates.

“Mr. Fai is accused of a decadeslong scheme with one purpose — to hide Pakistan’s involvement behind his efforts to influence the U.S. government’s position on Kashmir,” Neil MacBride, the United States Attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia, said. “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.”

A spokesman for the Pakistani Embassy denied any connection to matter, saying, “Mr. Fai is not a Pakistani citizen, and the government and embassy of Pakistan have no knowledge of the case.”

Law-enforcement officials said Pakistan used a network of at least 10 unnamed straw contributors, which Mr. Ahmad helped organize, to make the campaign contributions and donate the bulk of the Kashmiri Center’s annual operating budget. The I.S.I. would reimburse them — or their families in Pakistan — for the donations, the officials said.

Most of the straw donors who made contributions to the Kashmiri Center and to politicians in the United States were identified only by code in the court document, though the investigation was continuing and eight F.B.I. field offices executed 17 or 18 search warrants related to other suspected donors on Tuesday, an official said.

FULL STORY HERE:


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