A mega-donor to President Donald Trump’s Inaugural Committee agreed to plead guilty on Tuesday to various federal crimes, including tax evasion and making nearly $1 million in illegal campaign contributions from foreign sources.
According to a press release issued by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), 49-year-old California resident Imaad Shah Zuberi also falsified “records to conceal his work as a foreign agent while lobbying high-level U.S. government officials.”
“Zuberi engaged in lobbying efforts that earned him millions of dollars, most of which was pilfered from his clients,” the DOJ’s press release says. “Zuberi has agreed to plead guilty to those charges at a later date, pursuant to a plea agreement.”
Under the terms of that 66-page plea agreement, Zuberi will plead guilty to violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) as well as the above-mentioned tax and campaign finance charges in exchange for prosecutors agreeing not to charge him with mail or wire fraud, failure to tell federal authorities about his foreign bank accounts, money laundering, or obstruction of justice.
Zuberi has also agreed to pay back taxes and to put himself into compliance with FARA obligations. Prosecutors will also decline to prosecute Zuberi’s wife over potential tax and fraud issues.
Operated an informal entity named Avenue Ventures, a venture capital firm. As part of his operation of Avenue Ventures, defendant Zuberi told foreign national, representatives of foreign governments, and other that he could implement changes to United States foreign policy by wielding his influence in Washington, D.C. Defendant Zuberi typically advertised these political policy changes as devices to construct profitable business and investment opportunities for his clients as well as himself.
Zuberi’s contributions were made to campaigns on both sides of the aisle, including to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama:
Between on or about September 1, 2011 and on or about February 24, 2017, the day when defendant Zuberi became aware of the U.S. Government’s criminal investigation, defendant Zuberi made over $3,000,000 in contributions, in either his own name or that of his spouse, to various Democratic and Republican federal election campaigns, and Presidential Inauguration Committees. Between on or about September 1, 2011 and on or about November 7, 2016, defendant Zuberi also ‘bundled’ over a million dollars of contributions from various third parties as a fundraiser for campaigns for Presidential elections and several other candidates for elected office.
Through such political contributions, Zuberi allegedly “obtained access to high-level” U.S. officials and attempted to change U.S. policy so as to benefit his clients. Prosecutors allege, however, that Zuberi’s efforts “were largely unsuccessful for his clients” who “suffered significant monetary losses stemming from their business associations with” Zuberi.
Zuberi, on the other hand, allegedly “gained substantial wealth” due to “fraudulent representations concerning” his “education, experience, family wealthy, business, employees, investment sucesses, financial condition, political power, and the disposition of client funds” as well as “outright [theft] of client money.”
In early 2017, Zuberi donated $900,000 to Trump’s Inaugural Committee.
Scrutiny of that committee was precipitated by an April 2018 raid on former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen‘s offices. New York investigators eventually passed that investigation on to counterparts in California.
U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California Nick Hanna said:
Mr. Zuberi’s multi-faceted 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 his clients. Mr. Zuberi circumvented laws designed to insulate U.S. policy and our election process from foreign intervention. This investigation has halted his illegal conduct, will result in several felony convictions, and could send him to prison for a lengthy period of time.
The criminal information and plea agreement are both available below.
[image via NBC screengrab]