The US Justice Department has announced that LA businessman Imaad Zuberi was sentenced to 12 years in prison in connection with tax evasion, campaign finance violations failing to register as a foreign agent, and obstructing a federal investigation into the source of donations to a presidential inauguration committee. According to the announcement:
A venture capitalist and political fundraiser was sentenced today to 144 months in federal prison for falsifying records to conceal his work as a foreign agent while lobbying high-level U.S. government officials, evading the payment of millions of dollars in taxes, making illegal campaign contributions, and obstructing a federal investigation into the source of donations to a presidential inauguration committee. Imaad Shah Zuberi, 50, of Arcadia, California, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips, who also ordered him to pay $15,705,080 in restitution and a criminal fine of $1.75 million. In November 2019, Zuberi pleaded guilty to a three-count information charging him with violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) by making false statements on a FARA filing, tax evasion, and making illegal campaign contributions. In June 2020, Zuberi pleaded guilty in a separate case to one count of obstruction of justice. His sentence today pertains to both cases. “Zuberi turned acting as an unregistered foreign agent into a business enterprise,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers. “He used foreign money to fund illegal campaign contributions that bought him political influence and used that influence to lobby U.S. officials for policy changes on behalf of numerous foreign principals.
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According to a POLITICO report, Zuberi’s violations included unregistered lobbying for governments such as Sri Lanka and Turkey as well as a Ukrainian oligarch close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The POLITICO report goes on to detail Zuberi’s influence network:
These documents also demonstrate how Zuberi built a widespread network of contacts, thanks in part to his prodigious political giving. That included six-figure donations to the Obama-Biden ticket in 2012 and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016. No one who accepted tainted money from Zuberi has been accused of wrongdoing, and Biden, through a spokesman, has said he had no knowledge of Zuberi’s illegal acts when they met, mostly at donor roundtables when Biden was vice president. The new records show that Zuberi donated to or hired several Washington advocacy groups, lobbying shops, and public relations firms. He also had well-connected people on his payroll for various business projects, including former NATO supreme commander Gen. Wesley Clark.
POLITICO also notes Zuberi’s ties to Qatar:
Prosecutors revealed last year that there is an investigation into Zuberi’s ties to Qatar. Zuberi secretly lobbied the Trump White House and Congress on behalf of the small gas-rich monarchy, which has paid him $9.8 million, prosecutors have alleged in court papers.
Finally, the Justice Depart announcement raises questions about Zuberi’s possible ties to Iran:
Zuberi also siphoned money invested in U.S. Cares, a company set up to export humanitarian aid to Iran. In 2013 and 2014, investors deposited approximately $7 million into U.S. Cares, but Zuberi used more than 90 percent of investor funds for his personal benefit, which included purchasing real estate, paying down debt such as mortgages and credit card bills, remodeling properties, investing in brokerage accounts, and donating $250,000 to a non-profit organization established by a former high-ranking elected official.
A well-sourced Wikipedia article provides biographical detail on Zuberi:
Zuberi was born in Pakistan and moved to the United States with his parents at the age of three. He earned a BSc in 1997 from the University of Southern California and an MBA in 2006 from Stanford University. Zuberi is vice president of strategic development for Manhattan Street Capital and runs its FundAthena (2015–present). He also serves as vice president of Avenue Ventures and previously was vice president of strategy and market/corporate development at AEGON Group. He was a top fundraiser for President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign and in 2015 was listed as a “Hillblazer,” as those who raised at least $100,000 for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign were known. In 2017, Zuberi contributed $900,000 to Donald Trump’s presidential inaugural committee. Zuberi has supported the Smithsonian National Museum of American History,the Clinton Foundation and UCLA. He also supported Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s 2013 Virginia gubernatorial campaign and the Organizing for Action advocacy group. He has advised the Chinese government on economic policy and the Sri Lanka government.
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