The allegations come at a time of deteriorating relations between the Obama administration and the Pakistani government, which is angry about secret U.S. operations that led to the killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Pakistan has kicked out more than 100 U.S. military advisers in recent weeks, while the Obama administration announced it is delaying $800 million in military aid.
A criminal complaint filed in Alexandria against Fai and a second defendant, Zaheer Ahmad, outlines a long-running and elaborate plot in which Pakistani intelligence officials exercised de facto control over the Kashmiri council, which sponsored well-attended conferences in Washington, organized congressional trips to Kashmir and met with State Department and White House officials.
In total, the FBI estimates that the group received up to $700,000 per year from Pakistani government sources, according to the complaint. The nonprofit group reported much smaller budgets in its annual reports to the Internal Revenue Service.
Prosecutors also allege that the group served as a conduit for political contributions, both secret and public, that may have reached $100,000 per year. The biggest single recipient of disclosed contributions was Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), a longtime pro-Pakistani advocate on Kashmir, who expressed shock Tuesday at Fai’s arrest.
Fai, 62, and Ahmad, 63, both of whom are U.S. citizens, were charged Tuesday with acting as agents of a foreign government without registering with the Justice Department as required by law. If convicted, they would face up to five years in prison.
Fai was arrested at his Fairfax home Tuesday morning and was ordered to remain in jail pending a detention hearing Thursday. Ahmad is believed to be living in Pakistan and remains at large, U.S. officials said.
The Pakistani embassy in Washington declined to comment on the case. “Mr. Fai is not a Pakistani citizen, and the government and embassy of Pakistan have no knowledge of the case against him,” an embassy spokesman said.
The charges allege a particularly brazen case of foreign influence-peddling, which is heavily regulated under U.S. laws aimed at limiting propaganda by overseas nations or companies. Foreign nationals are strictly prohibited from spending money on U.S. elections.
The case also suggests an aggressive effort by Pakistan to beef up its influence in Washington, particularly in connection with the longstanding conflict with India over Kashmir. India has long had a formidable lobbying presence in Washington, and its supporters wield significant clout when it comes to campaign contributions to members of Congress.