WASHINGTON – For years, the Pakistani spy agency funneled millions of dollars to a Washington nonprofit group in a secret effort to influence Congress and the White House, the Justice Department said Tuesday in court documents that are certain to complicate already strained relations between the U.S. and Pakistan.
FBI agents arrested Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai, the executive director of the Kashmiri American Council, on Tuesday and charged him with being an unregistered agent of a foreign government. Under the supervision of a senior member of Pakistan’s spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, Fai donated money to political campaigns, wrote newspaper op-eds, organized congressional trips and met with White House and State Department officials.
“I believe that Fai has received approximately $500,000 to $700,000 per year from the government of Pakistan,” FBI agent Sarah Webb Linden said in documents filed in federal court in Alexandria, Va.
Officially, the Kashmiri American Council had a much smaller budget and told the U.S. government that it received no foreign grants, according to Internal Revenue Service documents. Pakistan was financing similar operations in London and Brussels, the Justice Department said.
The Pakistani Embassy quickly issued a statement saying the government had no knowledge of such an arrangement.
A second man, Zaheer Ahmad, was also charged. Prosecutors said he recruited people to act as straw donors who would give money to the Kashmiri American Council 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.
Prosecutors said the Kashmiri American Council was being run in secret by the Pakistani government. Fai coordinated his activities with his ISI handlers and often communicated in coded emails, the FBI said.
Fai, 62, appeared before a federal magistrate judge, who ordered him jailed until a detention hearing Thursday afternoon. Prosecutor Gordon Kromberg said Fai faces up to five years in prison if convicted.
Though the charges are not related to espionage, the arrest adds another 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.
ISI 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.