Two American citizens were charged with illegally lobbying the U.S. government about the territorial dispute over Kashmir without disclosing that they were secretly working for Pakistan’s government and being paid by Pakistan’s spy service.
Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai, 62, who lives in Fairfax, Va., was arrested Tuesday. Authorities were seeking Zaheer Ahmad, 63, who is believed to live in Pakistan. Charged with failing to register as foreign agents, the men could face five years in prison if convicted.
The case may further strain U.S. relations with Pakistan, which have plummeted since Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani garrison city of Abbottabad in May.
At Pakistan’s embassy in Washington, press attache Nadeem Hotiana said his government was unaware of the case. “Mr. Fai is not a Pakistani citizen, and the government and embassy of Pakistan have no knowledge of the case involving him,” Hotiana said.
Prosecutors said Fai was executive director of the Kashmiri American Council, an advocacy group in Washington that lobbies Congress members, among others, about Kashmir. Pakistan and India have fought three wars in a long-standing dispute over the border region.
Fai served “at the direction of and with the financial support of the Pakistani government for more than 20 years,” prosecutors said. In that role, they said, he was in touch with his handlers from the Pakistani spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, more than 4,000 times in the last three years alone.
Fai’s handlers also routinely communicated with Ahmad, prosecutors said.
In all, Fai and the Kashmiri American Council, also known as KAC, received at least $4 million from the Pakistani government, prosecutors said. They said neither he nor Ahmad registered as an official agent of a foreign government, as required by law.
U.S. Atty. Neil MacBride in Alexandria, Va., said Fai tried “to hide Pakistan’s involvement behind his efforts to influence the U.S. government’s position on Kashmir.”
In an affidavit, FBI Special Agent Sarah Webb Linden said a witness arrested in another matter alleged that Fai was furthering the interests of Pakistan. The witness said Fai received large sums of money from Pakistan, and preferred checks over cash because they appeared more “legitimate” and “safe.”
Checks were found in his office and a storage facility, Linden said, and in June 2010, New York police recovered $35,000 in cash from his car.
In a series of FBI interviews, Fai denied that he worked for Pakistan. “KAC and I have never engaged in any activities or provided any services to any foreign entity,” he said, according to court documents.