Man to Plead Guilty to Funneling Foreign Money to US Campaigns

LOS ANGELES (CN) – A California venture capitalist agreed to plead guilty Tuesday to falsifying records to hide his work as a foreign agent and making illegal campaign contributions on behalf of foreign entities seeking to influence U.S. elections.

Imaad Zuberi, 49, has contributed large sums of money to both Republicans and Democrats, including $900,000 to President Donald Trump’s inauguration committee and $600,000 to then-candidate Hillary Clinton, as well as to Republican senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Rand Paul of Kentucky. The feds say the money came from foreign entities.

Zuberi told foreign nationals and representatives from foreign governments that he could influence U.S. policies in their favor through his influence in Washington and flaunted his apparent sway to create business and investment opportunities for clients and himself, federal prosecutors say.

Some of these foreign clients paid him consulting fees and others simply transferred money to him so he could make campaign contributions in a scheme that stretched from 2011 to 2017, prosecutors say.

Although Zuberi donated over $3 million to various Democratic and Republican candidates, according to media reports, the Justice Department says his efforts did not pay off for many of his foreign clients.

“Indeed, most of defendant Zuberi’s clients suffered significant monetary losses stemming from their business associations with Zuberi,” the charging document says. “Many of the lobbyists, public relations consultants, and other subcontractors also suffered losses when defendant Zuberi refused to pay them for their services.”

Through his venture capital firm Avenue Ventures, Zuberi took most of the money – more than $1 million – for himself, prosecutors say.

“American influence is not for sale. Mr. Zuberi lured individuals who were seeking political influence in violation of U.S. law, and in the process, enriched himself by defrauding those with whom he interacted,” said Paul Delacourt, assistant director with the FBI’s LA field office, in a statement.

The charging document details an instance in which Zuberi tried to convince the government of Bahrain to lift sanctions on a Bahraini national in connection with a large resort project and made it appear Avenue Ventures had made a large investment in the project. He then lobbied members of Congress to pressure Bahrain to stop its interference in the project – all an effort to help the Bahraini national, who paid him for his work, according to the charging document.

Prosecutors also say Zuberi applied for a license with the Office of Foreign Affairs for a company called U.S. Cares, which he said would export humanitarian aid to Iran. He received nearly $7 million from investors, but used 90% of the money to purchase real estate and pay off his credit card debt, according to prosecutors.

Zuberi agreed to plead guilty to falsifying records to conceal his work as a foreign agent, evading taxes on income made from lobbying on behalf of foreign entities and making illegal campaign contributions. He is expected to make his initial court appearance in the case on Oct. 30.

His spokesman declined to comment Tuesday afternoon.

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