Oct. 24 (UPI) -- A California donor to political campaigns and President Donald Trump's inaugural committee has agreed to plead guilty to lobbying U.S. government officials while working as a foreign agent, making illegal campaign contributions and evading taxes, according to the Department of Justice.
Federal prosecutors said Wednesday that Imaad Shah Zuberi, 49, solicited foreign nationals, governments and companies through his venture capital firm Avenue Ventures promising he could influence foreign policy and create business opportunities for them in exchange for millions of dollars, much of which he spent on himself.
"Mr. Zuberi's multifaceted scheme allowed him to line his pockets by concealing the fact that he was representing foreign clients, obtaining access for clients by making a long series of illegal contributions and skimming money paid by clients," U.S. attorney Nick Hanna said in a statement. "Mr. Zuberi circumvented laws designed to insulate U.S. policy and our election process from foreign intervention."
According to court documents, Zuberi's clients would pay him consulting or retainer fees, transfer him money to invest in specific business ventures or transfer money to fund political campaigns "in an effort to create business opportunities for themselves."
Between Sept. 1, 2011, and Feb. 24, 2017, Zuberi made more than $3 million in campaign contributions to both federal Democratic and Republican candidates, including more than $900,000 toward Trump's inauguration committee, in order to gain access to high-level United States officials.
In one case, Zuberi lobbied the U.S. government on behalf of a Bahrain citizen to apply pressure on the Middle Eastern country to lift sanctions off the individual in connection to a large resort development in the country. In another case, Zuberi entered a multimillion-dollar deal with Sri Lanka to lobby the U.S. government on its behalf to improve the country's image. Instead, Zuberi pocketed $5.65 million of the $6.5 million he received, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said Zuberi has agreed to plead guilty to three charges: evading taxes, violating federal election law and falsifying records to conceal his work as a foreign agent while lobbying the U.S. government. He faces a statutory maximum sentence of 15 years in federal prison.
"American influence is not for sale," said Paul Delacourt, assistant director in charge of the FBI's Los Angeles office. "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."