Recent FARA Cases
In 2021, in the Central District of California, Imaad Shah Zuberi was sentenced to 12 years in prison—including the statutory maximum five years on the FARA charge—and ordered to pay $15.7 million in restitution and a total criminal fine of $1.75 million, which included a $1 million fine for the FARA count. Zuberi had pleaded guilty in 2019 to violating FARA, tax evasion, and making almost $1 million in illegal campaign contributions, including money from foreign entities used to influence U.S. elections. Zuberi subsequently pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in 2020 in the Southern District of New York. Between 2013 and 2017, Zuberi solicited foreign nationals and representatives of foreign governments with claims he could use his contacts to change U.S. foreign policy to benefit his clients. As part of his efforts to influence public policy, Zuberi hired lobbyists, retained public relations professionals, and made campaign contributions that gave him access to high-level U.S. officials, whom Zuberi then lobbied to act in support of his clients. In relation to the FARA charge, Zuberi admitted to submitting false registration statements that concealed his role in a lobbying effort on behalf of the Government of Sri Lanka, his political contributions, and millions of dollars he received.
In 2020, in the District of Columbia, Elliott Broidy pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate FARA. In exchange for millions of dollars, Broidy and his co-conspirators agreed to secretly do the bidding of foreign principals by lobbying senior U.S. Government officials on pending matters at the Department of Justice. Broidy admitted to his role in a covert campaign to influence the U.S. Government on behalf of Chinese and Malaysian interests. Broidy sought to lobby the highest levels of the U.S. Government to deport a dissident of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) living in the United States, and to drop proceedings related to 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), one of the largest fraud and money laundering prosecutions ever brought – all while concealing the foreign principals he represented. Among other actions, Broidy tried to arrange meetings for a PRC Minister with the Attorney General, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and other high-level officials during the PRC Minister’s visit to the United States; provided talking points to the Secretary of State referencing the 1MDB investigation in advance of a meeting with the Malaysian Prime Minister; and pushed the White House Chief of Staff for a golf game between the U.S. President and the Malaysian Prime Minister to discuss resolution of the 1MDB matter. Despite Broidy’s and his co-conspirator’s efforts, the lobbying campaign was unsuccessful as to the individuals mentioned above. Of the $9 million Broidy was paid for his role in the conspiracy, he paid roughly $2.4 million to co-conspirator Nickie Lum Davis, who pleaded guilty to one count of aiding and abetting violation of FARA in 2020, in the District of Hawaii. As part of their plea agreements, both Broidy and Davis agreed to forfeit proceeds realized by their offensive conduct.
- In 2019, the U.S. law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP entered into a settlement agreement resolving its liability for violations of FARA. According to the agreement, Skadden acted as an agent of the Government of Ukraine by contributing to a public relations campaign directed at select members of the U.S. news media in 2012. In response to inquiries from the FARA Unit about its role in that campaign, a partner then at Skadden made false and misleading statements to the FARA Unit, which led the FARA Unit to conclude in 2013 that the firm was not obligated to register. The facts, when uncovered, showed that Skadden was required to register in 2012. The firm registered, admitted it made false and misleading statements in response to inquiries from the FARA Unit, disgorged over $4.6 million in fees, and agreed to ensure it has formal, robust procedures for responding to inquiries concerning its conduct from any federal government entity and ensuring FARA compliance as to its engagements on behalf of foreign clients.
- In 2018, Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova, a Russian national, was charged by criminal complaint in the Eastern District of Virginia for her alleged role in a Russian conspiracy to interfere in the U.S. political system, including the 2018 midterm election. The complaint alleges that Khusyaynova conspired to defraud the United States by impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful functions of the U.S. Department of Justice to administer and enforce FARA, among other offenses.
- In 2018, after being convicted at trial in the Eastern District of Virginia on bank fraud and tax charges, Paul J. Manafort, Jr., pleaded guilty in the District of Columbia to two counts: (i) conspiracy to commit multiple offenses, including violating FARA by failing to register and by providing false statements in a document filed with FARA, and laundering money; and (ii) conspiracy to obstruct justice by tampering with witnesses. Manafort failed to register under FARA as an agent of the Government of Ukraine, the Ukrainian Party of Regions, and former Ukrainian President Yanukovych. Manafort was sentenced to 73 months’ imprisonment, including the statutory maximum 60 months for the conspiracy to violate FARA (Manafort is due to serve an additional 17 months stemming from his conviction in the Eastern District of Virginia).
- In 2018, W. Samuel Patten pleaded guilty in the District of Columbia to violating FARA by engaging in lobbying and political consulting in the United States on behalf of the Opposition Bloc, a Ukrainian political party, without registering under FARA. Patten contacted members of Congress, the executive branch, and the news media; drafted talking points for a Ukraine oligarch for meetings with members of Congress and congressional staff; and helped the oligarch draft articles targeted at the U.S. press. Patten cooperated with and provided substantial assistance to the government, and was sentenced to 36 months of probation.
- In 2018, Nisar Ahmed Chaudhry pleaded guilty in the District of Maryland for failing to register under FARA as an agent for the Government of Pakistan, including its military, intelligence and diplomatic officials.
- In 2018, Richard Gates pleaded guilty in the District of Columbia to two counts: (i) conspiracy to commit multiple offenses, including violating FARA by failing to register and by providing false statements in a document filed with FARA; and (ii) providing false statements to the FBI. Gates participated in a scheme with Paul Manafort to lobby on behalf of the Government of Ukraine, the Ukrainian Party of Regions, and former Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych, without registering as an agent under FARA. Gates has been cooperating with the government and is awaiting sentencing.
- In 2018, a grand jury in the District of Columbia returned an eight-count indictment of 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies (the Internet Research Agency LLC, Concord Management and Consulting LLC, and Concord Catering) for committing crimes while seeking to interfere in the U.S. political system, including the 2016 presidential election. Count One charges the defendants with, among other things, conspiracy to defraud the United States by impairing, obstructing and defeating the lawful functions of the U.S. Department of Justice to administer and enforce FARA. The indictment alleges that the “Defendants and their co-conspirators, while concealing their Russian identities and [Internet Research Agency] affiliation through false personas, began to produce, purchase, and post advertisements on U.S. social media and other online sites expressly advocating for the election of then-candidate Trump or expressly opposing Clinton.” The indictment also alleges “Defendants and their co-conspirators organized and coordinated political rallies in the United States.”
- In 2017, Michael T. Flynn pleaded guilty in the District of Columbia to making false statements to the FBI pertaining to his communications with the Russian Ambassador to the United States. In the Statement of Offense filed with his plea agreement, Flynn admitted to making materially false statements in multiple documents filed pursuant to FARA in conjunction with work performed by him and his company for the principal benefit of the Republic of Turkey.
- In 2014, Prince Asiel Ben Israel pleaded guilty in the Northern District of Illinois to failing to register under FARA as an agent for a foreign government. Ben Israel lobbied as agent of Zimbabwe for lifting sanctions on Robert Mugabe and other top Zimbabwean government officials. Ben Israel was sentenced to seven months in prison.
- In 2011, Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai, director of the NGO Kashmiri American Council, was charged in the Eastern District of Virginia with conspiring to act as an agent of the Government of Pakistan without registering under FARA. The FARA charge was later dropped as part of Fai’s agreement to plead guilty to conspiracy to defraud the U.S Government and tax offenses.
- In 2010, former U.S. Representative Mark Deli Siljander pleaded guilty in the Western District of Missouri to obstruction of justice and acting as an agent of a foreign principal without registering under FARA, relating to his work for the Islamic American Relief Agency (IARA), an Islamic charity with ties to international terrorism. His co-defendant Abdel Azim El-Siddig pleaded guilty to conspiring with Siljander and others to violate FARA by hiring Siljander to lobby for IARA’s removal from a Senate Finance Committee list of charities suspected of having terrorist ties, while concealing this advocacy and not registering. Siljander was sentenced to one year and one day in federal prison without parole; El-Siddig received two years’ probation.
- In 2007, Tongsun Park was convicted at trial in the Southern District of New York for conspiracy to violate the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, as amended, 22 U.S.C. § 611 et seq. (“FARA”), 18 U.S.C. § 951 (acting as an agent of a foreign government without prior notice to the Attorney General), and money laundering in connection with a scheme to lobby for easing United States and United Nations sanctions on Iraq and to corruptly influence the award and conditions of Oil for Food contracts. Park was sentenced to 60 months’ imprisonment.