What is Sri Lanka’s deal with Zuberi
Central Bank of Sri Lanka, governed by Ajith Nivard Cabral, in 2014 paid a US agent a massive US $8.5 to build image of Sri Lankan government. This agent was later proven a criminal before a US court and now he is in jail. The agent used much of the money transferred by Sri Lanka for his own luxury. The payment made through the Central Bank of Sri Lanka has not been endorsed by the cabinet of Sri Lanka. There may be some Sri Lankans as well who benefitted from this racket.
The government of Sri Lanka hired Zuberi in 2014 to rehabilitate the country’s image in the United States, which had suffered because of allegations that its minority Tamil population had been persecuted. Zuberi promised to make substantial expenditures on lobbying efforts, legal expenses, and media buys, which prompted Sri Lanka to agree to pay Zuberi a total of $8.5 million over the course of six months in 2014. Days after Sri Lanka made an initial payment of $3.5 million, Zuberi transferred $1.6 million into his personal brokerage accounts and used another $1.5 million to purchase real estate.
In total, Sri Lanka wired $6.5 million pursuant to the contract, and Zuberi used more than $5.65 million of that money to the benefit of himself and his wife. Zuberi paid less than $850,000 to lobbyists, public relations firms and law firms, and refused to pay certain subcontractors based on false claims that Sri Lanka had not provided sufficient funds to pay invoices.
The two above quotes are from the United States Department of Justice website. The news story further says, “Relatedly, Zuberi failed to report on his 2014 tax return millions of dollars in income he received from the Sri Lankan government. While his 2014 federal income tax return claimed income of $558,233, Zuberi failed to report more than $5.65 million he received in relation to the Sri Lanka lobbying effort. Zuberi’s tax evasion over the course of four years – 2012 through 2015 – caused tax losses ranging from $3.5 million to as much as $9.5 million.”
Who is Zuberi?
Imaad Shah Zuberi, 50, of Arcadia, California, was introduced by the US Department of Justice as a venture capitalist and political fundraiser. He was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips, who also ordered him to pay $15,705,080 in restitution and a criminal fine of $1.75 million. Zuberi was sentenced to 144 months in federal prison for falsifying records to conceal his work as a foreign agent while lobbying high-level U.S. government officials, evading the payment of millions of dollars in taxes, making illegal campaign contributions, and obstructing a federal investigation into the source of donations to a presidential inauguration committee
In November 2019, Zuberi pleaded guilty to a three-count information charging him with violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) by making false statements on a FARA filing, tax evasion, and making illegal campaign contributions. In June 2020, Zuberi pleaded guilty in a separate case to one count of obstruction of justice.
“Zuberi turned acting as an unregistered foreign agent into a business enterprise,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers. “He used foreign money to fund illegal campaign contributions that bought him political influence, and used that influence to lobby U.S. officials for policy changes on behalf of numerous foreign principals. He not only concealed his lucrative agreements with those foreign principals, but also made false statements about them in a FARA filing. After learning he was under investigation, Zuberi doubled down on his criminal conduct, obstructing justice by creating false records, destroying evidence, and attempting to purchase witnesses’ silence. This sentence should deter others who would seek to corrupt our political processes and compromise our institutions in exchange for foreign cash.”
“Mr. Zuberi flouted federal laws that restrict foreign influences upon our government and prohibit injecting foreign money into our political campaigns. He enriched himself by defrauding his clients and evading the payment of taxes,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison for the Central District of California.