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Politics

L.A. venture capitalist and Trump donor Imaad Zuberi could face new federal charges

Foreign Influence Straw Donor
Los Angeles venture capitalist Imaad Zuberi, left, arrives at Trump Tower in New York in 2016.
(Kathy Willens / Associated Press)

Federal prosecutors in New York have informed a major donor to President Trump’s inaugural committee that they intend to charge him with obstruction of justice and failing to register as a foreign agent.

The donor, Los Angeles venture capitalist Imaad Zuberi, who has made big contributions to both Republicans and Democrats, is already charged in a separate case in L.A. with campaign finance violations, tax evasion and another offense related to work he did for foreigners looking to influence U.S. policy. He was scheduled to plead guilty in that case Friday.

But his attorneys filed court papers in Los Angeles late Thursday, saying federal prosecutors in New York are pursuing new charges against Zuberi, 49, that won’t be covered by the plea deal he worked out in California.

The attorneys did not detail those charges but requested a delay of Friday’s hearing, accusing the U.S. Department of Justice of “last-minute goalpost-shifting” in Zuberi’s case.

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“Mr. Zuberi wants to put his conduct behind him, make amends, and be sentenced, but he also wants finality,” attorneys Evan Davis and Tom O’Brien wrote in the filing.

A prolific fundraiser, Zuberi gave $900,000 to Trump’s inaugural committee and was named in a federal subpoena sent to the committee this year seeking a wide range of records. The inaugural committee has not been accused of wrongdoing, but federal prosecutors in New York have been examining whether foreigners trying to get access to the new administration made improper donations through middlemen.

In the Los Angeles case, Zuberi, a globe-trotting venture capitalist, is accused of soliciting donations from foreign nationals and companies and then acting as a straw donor to make donations to several U.S. political campaigns. Prosecutors have said Zuberi told foreign nationals and representatives of foreign governments he could use his influence to change foreign policy and create business opportunities for clients and himself. He would distribute to clients photographs of him discussing policy with elected officials as an example of his connections, prosecutors said.

Under federal law, foreign companies and individuals cannot make contributions to U.S. political campaigns. The charges in the L.A. case are centered on contributions he made during the Obama administration.

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Each U.S. attorney’s office exercises some degree of independence, and the offices — while all part of the U.S. Justice Department — sometimes compete over which one gets to bring charges against high-profile defendants in cases spanning multiple jurisdictions.

In their court filing Thursday, Zuberi’s lawyers said prosecutors in New York informed him last year that he was a subject of the federal inquiry into donations to Trump’s inaugural committee.

Zuberi’s attorneys didn’t specify what he is alleged to have done wrong, or whether it is directly related to any of his Trump inaugural contributions. But they said the potential obstruction count involves conduct that occurred in Orange County and that federal prosecutors in Los Angeles had agreed not to charge him with that count.

Messages sent to federal prosecutors in New York and Los Angeles seeking comment had not been returned.


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