The head of a Washington nonprofit group was arrested Tuesday for allegedly running a front organization on behalf of elements of the Pakistani government, including its spy agency, for more than two decades in an effort to influence U.S. lawmakers and other top officials.
Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai, 62, a U.S. citizen and resident of Fairfax, was charged in federal court in Virginia with participating in a long-term conspiracy to act as an agent of the Pakistani government without disclosing his affiliation.
Zaheer Ahmad, 63, a U.S. citizen and resident of Pakistan, was also charged, but remains at large. He was accused of trying to recruit “straw donors” who would provide money that was actually traced back to the Pakistani government.
Fai is the longtime director of the Kashmiri American Council, which describes itself as a nonprofit dedicated to “raising the level of knowledge in the United States about the struggle of the Kashmiri people for self-determination.” In an affidavit filed in support of a criminal complaint, however, the FBI alleged that the center is one of three so-called “Kashmir Centers” that are run by elements of the Pakistani government, including the Inter-Services Intelligence agency.
Since the mid-1990s, the affidavit said, the Kashmiri American Council has received at least $4 million from the Pakistani government.
“Mr. Fai is accused of a decades-long scheme with one purpose – to hide Pakistan’s involvement behind his efforts to influence the U.S. government’s position on Kashmir,” said Neil H. MacBride, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, where the charges were filed. “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.”
Fai and Ahmad are accused of violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), which requires anyone acting on behalf of a foreign power to file disclosures with the Justice Department. Neither faces espionage charges.
It could not be immediately determined whether Fai had an attorney, and the Kashmiri American Council could not be reached for comment.
The long-running dispute over Kashmir is the signature point of conflict between Pakistan and India. Pakistan has for years sought greater international engagement, particularly from the United States, in resolving the issue.
In a statement, the Justice Department said that Fai, when questioned about his relationship with the Pakistani government last year, said neither he nor his group had ever engaged in any activities or provided any services to Pakistan or any foreign entity. When questioned three years earlier by the FBI, he said he had never met anyone who identified himself as being affiliated with the ISI.
The affidavit alleged that Fai acted at the direction of the Pakistani government for more than 20 years, and had been in touch with his “handlers” more than 4,000 times since June 2008.
There is no evidence that any elected official who received financial contributions from Fai or his group was aware that the money originated from any part of the Pakistani government, according to the Justice statement.