Former US envoy to Pakistan fined $93K for illegally aiding Qatar; also had illegal contacts with Pakistani-American businessman

Richard Gustave Olson. PHOTO:

Richard Gustave Olson, a former US ambassador to Pakistan, has been fined $93,350 by a federal court in a case involving assistance to Qatar and making a false statement, according to Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen.

A Department of Justice statement on Friday said that the penalty was for two separate “misconduct relating to his public office”.

In addition to the fine, the diplomat with 34 years of distinguished service was given a sentence of 36-month probation, which saves him from prison time as long as he stayed out of trouble during that period.

Olson was the ambassador to Islamabad from 2012 to 2015 and followed that up as the US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan from 2015 to 2016 during the administration of former President Barack Obama.

The Department said that Olson had admitted before a federal court in the District of Columbia in June last year “to one count [or charge] of making a false writing and one count of aiding and advising a foreign government with the intent to influence decisions of United States officers”.

The department said that failed to disclose “thousands of dollars of benefits he received from a businessman (‘Person 1’) while he was in government sentence” and when questioned by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, he “falsely claimed that he did not know Person 1 paid for them”

Court documents did not name the “Person1”, but described him as a “naturalised US citizen born in Pakistan”, who operated several businesses and lobbied, and was the go-between for another deal.

The Washington Post said the person was Imaad Zuberi, a Pakistani-American businessman, who was sentenced in 2021 to 12 years on charges of making illegal campaign contributions.

After he left office as a senior official, Olson was required to observe a year-long “cooling-off” during which he was prohibited from aiding foreign governments or representing them.

But the department said that “Person 1” began paying him a consulting fee of $20,000 per month and that he “illegally helped the government of Qatar influence U.S. policymakers in violation of laws”.

The Department said that he worked at “convincing US policymakers to establish US Customs and Border Protection preclearance facilities at Doha International Airport” and “to support Qatar, rather than its regional rivals, during the 2017 Gulf Diplomatic Crisis” when Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Eqypt cut off diplomatic relations with the Gulf nation.

Olson also pleaded guilty in April last year before a Los Angeles Federal Court to receiving travel gifts from a Pakistani-American businessman.

It was not clear if that case was bing pursued separately or had been rolled into the one he was fined for.

Olson had received air travel to London, lodging there and expenses from the Pakistani-American businessman to meet a Bahraini businessperson regarding a one-year contract worth $300,000, according to the Department.

Court papers did not identify the Bahraini businessperson or say if the contract was signed or what it would have entailed.

In court filings, the Department also said at the time that Olson up a company, Medicine Bear International Consulting, through which at least one payment of $20,000 was routed to him after the Pakistani American had “agreed to retain” his services for $20,000 per month plus expenses.

Retired Marine General John Allen, who had commanded the US and Nato forces in Afghanistan, was investigated for alleged connections to Olson and Zuberi, but was cleared of the allegations this year.

The FBI had alleged in an application to search his electronic communication that he had agreed to travel at Zuberi’s expense to Qatar and accept a speaker’s fee of $20,000.

Allen, who was heading the influential think tank Brookings Institution, resigned his post.

But it turned out that he had received permission from former President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser Lieutenant General HR McMaster to meet with Qatari officials before his 2017 trip there.

Another former US ambassador to Pakistan, Robin Raphel, had also run into problems with the Justice Department but was ultimately not charged with any wrongdoing.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation had raided her home in 2014 while investigating if she had provided secret information to the Pakistani government.

The State Department had put her on administrative leave and suspended her security clearance during the investigation. The Justice Department ultimately informed her that she was not suspected of espionage and closed the investigation in 2016.



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