Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai on Wednesday pleaded guilty to illegally receiving $3.5 million from Pakistan for lobbying its activities in the US. He had been paid by the intelligence agency ISI.
Fai pleaded guilty to two counts. One, to concealing from US authorities that he was acting on behalf of a foreign government. Two, violation of tax laws.
The FBI arrested him on June 19. He faces five years in jail for the first count and three for the second. Judge Liam O’Grady set his sentencing for March 9.
Last week, a Pakistani man had pleaded guilty to making a jihadi promotional video for the Pakistan’s Lashkar-i-Tayyeba, which carried out Mumbai attack in 2008.
Fai, a Kashmir by birth, ran an organisation here in Washington — Kahsmiri American Council — to lobby the US on Jammu and Kashmir, essentially laying out the Pakistani line.
He had also contributed generously to some US lawmakers who later admitted to taking the money but said they didn’t know the back story. The FBI also absolved them of any wrongdoing.
Fai also invited and hosted many activists and politicians from India to his annual conferences ad seminars here and elsewhere on Kashmir.
They have also claimed they did not know of the source of his funding.
“The KAC was secretly funded by officials employed by the government of Pakistan, including the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI),” the FBI had told the court.
“Syed Fai today admitted his role in a decades-long scheme to conceal the fact that the government of Pakistan was secretly funding his efforts to influence U.S. policy on Kashmir,” said Assistant Attorney General Lisa Monaco.
“For the last 20 years, Mr. Fai secretly took millions of dollars from Pakistani intelligence and lied about it to the U.S. government,” said U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride.
“As a paid operative of ISI, he did the bidding of his handlers in Pakistan while he met with U.S. elected officials, funded high-profile conferences and promoted the Kashmiri cause to decision-makers in Washington.”
Pleading guilty to the charges on Wednesday, Fai admitted that from 1990 until about July 18, 2011, “he conspired with others to obtain money from officials employed by the government of Pakistan, including the ISI, for the operation of the KAC in the United States,” said the US justice department in a statement.
Under US laws he should have registered his lobbying outfit and declared his funding. He did neither. And when tracked down he denied getting money from the ISI.
“Fai repeatedly submitted annual KAC strategy reports and budgetary requirements to Pakistani government officials for approval,” the justice department said.
In 2009, Fai sent the ISI a document entitled “Plan of Action of KAC/Kashmir Centre, Washington, D.C., for the Fiscal Year 2010,” which itemized KAC’s 2010 budget request of $658,000 and listed Fai’s plans to secure US congressional support for US action in support of Kashmiri self-determination.