Wednesday, February 6, 2019

US Prosecutors Scrutinizing Trump's Pakistani-American Donor

Imaad Zuberi, a Pakistani-American venture capitalist from California who gave $900,000 to President Trump’s inauguration committee in 2016, has been subpoenaed by federal prosecutors in New York's Southern District.

Imaad Zuberi and President Barack Obama
Zuberi's donation paid for a breakfast event, which featured Trump’s first National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, among its 60 or so guests. It also included representatives from several countries around the world, according to media reports. Prosecutors suspect Zuberi funneled money from foreign donors which is a violation of the US Elections Laws, according to media reports.

Imaad Zuberi is vice chairman of private equity and venture capital firm Avenue Ventures. He has “closed over $15 billion in transactions” at the firm,  according to his Linked-in profile. His firm's clients include start-ups, major corporations and sovereign wealth funds.

Prior to donating to the Trump campaign, Zuberi is known to have also donated to Democratic Party candidates including former President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In fact, Zuberi was a top fundraiser for President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, according to data from Open Secrets.

He was born in 1970 in Albany, New York to a Pakistani father and an Indian mother.  He has an undergraduate  degree in business and finance from the University of Southern California and an MBA from Stanford University which he earned in 2006. He has kept up with the Pakistani community in Los Angeles, his home base, and as early as 2004 was raising money from them for John Kerry’s presidential campaign that year, to which he made his first contribution, a modest $1,000 donation, according to a story in Foreign Policy magazine.

Pakistani-American Billionaire Shahid Khan
Another high-profile Pakistani-American donor to Trump campaign is Jacksonville Jaguars' billionaire owner Shahid Khan who gave $1m in 2016.' Since Trump's election, Khan has criticized the president as one who has "shown leadership as the great divider".  Khan also spoke out Trump's travel ban on citizens of 7 Muslim countries.“You can’t confuse safety with religion or national origin,” Khan said. “That’s the point. But I have enough faith that things are going to eventually turn out well.”

There have been several Pakistani-American donors to US election campaigns in the news in recent years. Among them is Dr. Asad Qamar, a graduate of Lahore's King Edwards Medical College, who received $18.2 million in payments from US Medicare program in 2012, making him the second highest billing doctor in America. Dr. Qamar is a member of APPNA, Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent in North America. He was a candidate for the presidency of APPNA in 2013.

Asad Qamar M.D.
Dr. Qamar, a Pakistani-American cardiologist, and his family have given at least $300,000 to politicians and political causes in the 2012 election cycle and in 2013, according to contribution disclosure records reported by Reuters. Dr. Asish Pal, a Florida-based Indian-American, is the second highest billing cardiologist in America. Dr. Pal was paid $4.5 million by Medicare.

Dr. Qamar has been subjected to lengthy reviews of his billing practices by US Department of Health and Human Services. He has complained to President Obama and other officials that the contractors conducting the reviews for the HHS were slow and unresponsive. Dr. Qamar told New York Times that his payments were high because his practice, which has 150 employees and a caseload of 23,000 patients, routinely handles complicated procedures like opening blocked arteries in the legs of older patients, which normally would be billed by a hospital.

Only Dr. Salomon Melgen, a Florida Ophthalmologist, billed Medicare for a larger amount than Dr. Qamar did in 2012. Dr. Melgen, too, is a major contributor to Democratic party. Dr. Melgen’s firm donated more than $700,000 to Majority PAC, a super PAC run by former aides to the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada. The super PAC then spent $600,000 to help re-elect Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, who is a close friend of Dr. Melgen’s. Last year, Mr. Menendez himself became a target of investigation after the senator intervened on behalf of Dr. Melgen with federal officials and took flights on his private jet, according to The Times story.

Pakistani-American community is beginning to participate in the American political processes not only as donors but also as voters and candidates for public offices. In 2018 elections, Pakistani-American attorney Javed Ellahie was among 5 American Muslims elected to local office in the San Francisco Bay Area. It's a sign American voters are ready for diverse leadership despite troubling increases in hate crimes nationwide, according to the Council on American Islamic Relations. Across America, there are 55 American Muslim candidates who won election to public offices, 11 of them in California, according to CAIR. Two Muslim American women, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, were elected to the United States Congress in 2018.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

Muslim-Americans in San Francisco Bay Area

The Trump Phenomenon

Islamophobia in America

Silicon Valley Pakistani-Americans

Pakistani-American Leads Silicon Valley's Top Incubator

Silicon Valley Pakistanis Enabling 2nd Machine Revolution

Karachi-born Triple Oscar Winning Graphics Artist

Pakistani-American Ashar Aziz's Fire-eye Goes Public

Two Pakistani-American Silicon Valley Techs Among Top 5 VC Deals

Pakistani-American's Game-Changing Vision 

Minorities Are Majority in Silicon Valley 


Riaz Haq said...

Permian Basin Petroleum Association (PBPA) Honors #Pakistani #American #Oilman S. Javaid Anwar with Top Hand Award. #Texas via @mwtnews

S. Javaid Anwar received the Top Hand Award from the Permian Basin Petroleum Association Thursday at a dinner at the Petroleum Club.

The award adds to his growing list of accolades, which include the Hope award from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and the Outstanding Philanthropist award from the Permian chapter, Association of Fundraising Professionals. Anwar, president and chief executive officer of Midland Energy and of Petroplex Energy, was appointed to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board by Abbott.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistani-#American Donor Imaad Zubari Jailed For 12 Years. #California #VentureCapitalist was sentenced after pleading guilty to charges of obstructing a federal investigation into a nearly $1 million donation to ex President #Trump's #Campaign

A California venture capitalist was sentenced on Thursday to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to charges that included obstructing a federal investigation into a nearly $1 million donation to former President Donald J. Trump’s inaugural committee.

The businessman, Imaad Zuberi, was sentenced by a federal judge in California and ordered to pay $1.75 million in criminal fines and $15.7 million in restitution.

Mr. Zuberi, 50, had pleaded guilty to the obstruction of justice charge last year. It stemmed from a federal investigation into the source of $900,000 he had donated through his company, Avenue Ventures, to Mr. Trump’s inaugural committee in December 2016.

A lawyer for Mr. Zuberi declined to comment on Friday. He has acknowledged that his political donations were intended to gain access to politicians, public officials and business executives.

“To open doors, I have to donate,” he told The New York Times in 2019. “It’s just a fact of life.”

Mr. Zuberi had donated heavily to Democrats, including committees supporting President Barack Obama and then Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, before abruptly pivoting to Republicans after Mr. Trump’s victory. In Washington political circles, he was notable less for the scale of his giving than for its transactional nature.

Mr. Zuberi said in 2019 that his donation to Mr. Trump’s inaugural fund was at least partly intended to give him access to inaugural events where he hoped to talk business with Trump-backing investors and executives. But he said his attendance at the inaugural events did not yield any business — and backfired after his company’s donation was cited in a subpoena.

Mr. Zuberi was also sentenced on Thursday on a range of other charges to which he had pleaded guilty in 2019, and for which he could have faced a maximum sentence of 15 years in federal prison.

Some of those charges relate to nearly $1 million in illegal campaign donations made from April 2012 through October 2016 as part of a scheme to gain access to American politicians for foreign clients. Some of those donations were funded by foreign sources.

Others related to his lobbying work in Washington for the government of Sri Lanka, whose image he was trying to repair in Washington amid concerns about the country’s treatment of Tamil minority groups.

Mr. Zuberi falsified records filed with the Justice Department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act to conceal his lobbying for Sri Lanka, the Justice Department said in a statement on Thursday. That act, known as FARA, requires Americans to disclose detailed information about any lobbying or public relations work they do on behalf of foreign governments and political entities.

In addition, Mr. Zuberi failed to report and pay taxes on $5.65 million that he was paid for the Sri Lankan lobbying campaign, and diverted most of the money “to the benefit of himself and his wife,” the Justice Department’s statement said.

“This sentence should deter others who would seek to corrupt our political processes and compromise our institutions in exchange for foreign cash,” John C. Demers, assistant attorney general for national security, said in the statement.

Riaz Haq said...

Imaad Zuberi, a Pakistani-American recently sentenced to 12 years in prison for working for foreign governments, also did intelligence work for the US government for over a decade, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Zuberi, 50, was sentenced in February to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to tax evasion, foreign-influence peddling and campaign-finance violations.

But WSJ reported that “a key aspect of the case” – that this American businessman was a longtime US intelligence asset – “played out in secret court filings and hearings”. WSJ claimed to have reviewed legal documents underlining his links to the US intelligence agencies.

Before his conviction, Zuberi lived a jet-setting lifestyle and was a major political fundraiser for American leaders like Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. He also arranged fund-raising dinners for senior Republican and Democratic members of the US Congress.

Experts say cooperation with the government, if proved, can reduce his sentence

In October 2019, the US Justice Department filed criminal charges against him and soon after he pleaded guilty to those charges. Now his lawyers are preparing to challenge the sentence in an appeal that they say might raise questions over how heavily a defendant’s cooperation with intelligence agencies should be weighed against criminal charges.

“As evidenced by the public docket, national-security issues may have been part of this case and those same issues may ultimately arise as part of the appeal,” his lawyer David Warrington told WSJ.

Other legal experts also told the newspaper that cooperation with the government, if proved, can reduce his sentence.

Prosecutors from the Justice Department declined to comment.

The report claimed that before sentencing Zuberi, US District Judge Virginia Phillips held a closed-door hearing where she considered a sealed document in which Zuberi’s team laid out his account of more than a decade of clandestine help he had provided to the government.

“The CIA relies on well-connected Americans to serve as conduits for information, occasionally tapping them for information, introductions, assistance in recruiting foreigners and even for tasks such as acting as international couriers or acquiring secret information,” WSJ added while commenting on Zuberi’s claim.

According to the report, Zuberi’s legal team compiled a history of their client’s cooperation with the government, which was sealed under a law designed to protect intelligence sources and methods during trials.

In a memo seeking leniency, Zuberi’s legal team wrote: “His cooperation and assistance to this country has spanned over a decade, as described in more detail in Mr. Zuberi’s … filing.” They referred to that record as the “most remarkable list of assistance to the country encountered by experienced counsel and the court”.

WSJ, which claims reviewing the document, said Zuberi’s history of secret help to the CIA continued for more than a decade, “depicting a relationship that started with debriefings about his interactions with foreign officials but grew to involve more formal tasks and missions”.

CIA spokesman Timothy Barrett, when contacted for comments, urged WSJ to contact the Justice Department.

WSJ reported that Zuberi has secured the assistance of two former CIA officials in his defence. Robert Eatinger, a former top lawyer at the agency has joined the defence team since his sentencing. Another, former CIA official Jose Rodriguez, has submitted a sealed affidavit in support of leniency to the judge.

Riaz Haq said...

Imaad Zuberi, an American businessman who hobnobbed with world leaders and the international business elite, was sentenced in February to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to tax evasion, foreign-influence peddling and campaign-finance violations.

A key aspect of the case, however, has played out in secret court filings and hearings: Mr. Zuberi was a longtime U.S. intelligence source for the U.S. government, according to legal documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal and people familiar with the businessman’s defense.

Mr. Zuberi, 50 years old, lived a jet-setting lifestyle and was a major political fundraiser at the highest levels of American politics, giving generously to Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as well as many important members of Congress of both parties, according to campaign-finance records.

That life came to an end in October 2019, when he was criminally charged by the Justice Department and soon after pleaded guilty to tax evasion, foreign-lobbying violations, campaign-finance charges and obstruction of justice. His lawyers are preparing to challenge the sentence in an appeal that they say might raise questions over how heavily a defendant’s cooperation with intelligence agencies should be weighed against criminal charges.

“As evidenced by the public docket, national-security issues may have been part of this case and those same issues may ultimately arise as part of the appeal,” said David Warrington, a lawyer representing Mr. Zuberi.