Washington, Jul 19: The head of a Washington advocacy group was arrested Tuesday on charges that he had been on the payroll of Pakistan's spy agency for years and hid millions of dollars used for illegal lobbying.
Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai is the executive director of the Kashmiri American Council, which prosecutors said was being run in secret by the Pakistani government. Prosecutors said Pakistani government officials reviewed Fai's budget and directed him to make campaign donations to Congress and develop sources at the White House and State Department.
A second man, Zaheer Ahmad, was also charged. Prosecutors said he recruited people to act as straw donors who would give money that really was coming from the Pakistani government. Ahmad is not under arrest and is in Pakistan, prosecutors said. Both men are U.S. citizens.
Though the charges are not related to espionage, the arrest adds new strain to the already difficult relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan, which suffered after the U.S. found Osama bin Laden hiding inside Pakistan and killed him without telling the government there.
The Pakistani spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, has a complicated relationship with U.S. intelligence. The agency is a crucial ally in the war on terrorism but also works against the U.S. at times, including running double agents against the CIA.
“I believe that Fai has received approximately $500,000 to $700,000 per year from the government of Pakistan,” the FBI said in an affidavit filed in federal court.
The phones at the Kashmiri American Council office in Washington rang unanswered Tuesday.
The Pakistani Embassy in Washington said it knew nothing about the matter.
“Fai is not a Pakistani citizen, and the government and embassy of Pakistan have no knowledge of the case involving him,” the embassy said in a statement.
Israr Mirza, the former president of the Pakistani Student Association at George Mason University, recalled hearing Fai speak at a February event his organization hosted on India-Pakistan relations.
“I don't see him as a spy or anything. He's an old gentleman,” said Mirza.”He seemed like a very collected guy. He was speaking just to promote peace.”
Fai has donated to congressional campaigns of both parties for years. He has donated to President Barack Obama, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Prosecutors said none of the recipients knew the organization was a front for money from Pakistan. AP