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Obama’s Indian-born critic indicted for fraud

world Updated: Jan 24, 2014 16:27 IST
Yashwant Raj
Barack Obama

A leading Indian-born conservative critic of President Barack Obama was on Thursday indicted for election finance fraud and one other charge that could together get him seven years in jail.

Dinesh D’Souza. the accused, will appear in a New York court on Friday, in a process called arraignment, to be freed on bail on an amount to be determined by the court.

D’Souza, 52, is the maker of “2016: Obama’s America”, a film that argues that the president was weakening American with his anti-colonialism inherited from his Kenyan father.

It opened in Tampa in 2012 around Mitt Romney’s convention to long queues of party faithfuls, fueling and riding at the time a wave of conservative upsurge that, however, didn’t last.

The filmmaker now stands accused of using fronts to bypass limits on individual contributions to the campaign fund of a candidate, and then making false statements about it.

“Trying to influence elections through bogus campaign contributions is a serious crime,” said George Venizelos, FBI officer in charge of investigating the case.

D’Souza allegedly used fronts to contribute $20,000 to the campaign of an unidentified New York candidate for the senate in 2012, going way over the limit of $5,000.

“Mr. D’Souza did not act with any corrupt or criminal intent whatsoever,” his lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, has said in a statement. “He and the candidate have been friends since their college days, and at most, this was an act of misguided friendship by D’Souza.”

Conservatives lit into the indictment accusing the Obama administration of using the instruments of state to settle scores with the president’s critics.

D’Souza is the third conservative accused of corruption and power abuse recently with New Jersey governor Chris Christie and former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell.

“They are going after the Obama critics with indictments,” tweeted Matt Drudge of Drudge Report, adding, “VA Gov (McDonnell). Now Dinesh D'souza.”

That was one conservative line-of-attack on the indictment. The second hinged on the man who announced it: Indian-born Manhattan US attorney Preet Bharara.

“As we have long said, this Office and the FBI take a zero tolerance approach to corruption of the electoral process,” said Bharara in a statement.

Critics tried to portray D’Souza’s as another attempt by Bharara to score points here by implicating Indian-Americans -- “Another Indian American :-/ ...” said a tweet.

Others recalled Bharara’s previous “conquests” to bolster that point: former McKinsey CEO Rajat Gupta, who was held guilty of insider trading last year, as charged by Bharara.

And, more recently Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade, who was expelled by the US for visa fraud and making false statement, again, as charged by Bharara.

Anticipating this line of criticism perhaps, the statement from the US attorney’s office made clear that the indictment resulted from a “routine review” of elections records by the FBI.

In short, Bharara didn’t will it.

D’Souza was born in Mumbai and came to the US as an exchange student. He doesn’t say more about his life in India in an otherwise lengthy “about” piece on himself on his website.