Venture capitalist and political donor sentenced to 12 years

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A venture capitalist and political fundraiser, was sentenced Feb. 18, 2021, to 144 months in federal prison.

The sentencing of Imaad Shah Zuberi, who according to a Politico.com news report of Feb. 12, 2021, is an American citizen of Pakistani and Indian descent raised in upstate New York, was based on charges of 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, a press release from the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California, said.

Zuberi, 50, of Arcadia, was sentenced by United States District Judge Virginia A. Phillips, who also ordered him to pay $15,705,080 in restitution and a criminal fine of $1.75 million.

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. His sentence pertains to both cases the press release said.

The Justice Department press release says Zuberi operated Avenue Ventures LLC, a San Francisco-based venture capital firm, and solicited foreign nationals and representatives of foreign governments with claims he could use his contacts in Washington, D.C., to change U.S. foreign policy and create business opportunities for his clients and himself.

Zuberi dealt with countries like Bahrain, Iran and Sri Lanka.

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, the Justice Department said.

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.

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, the press release said.

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 Justice Department press release said.

In addition, Zuberi failed to report on his 2014 tax return millions of dollars in income he received from the Sri Lankan government.

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, the Justice Department said.

The Justice Department said Zuberi also violated the Federal Election Campaign Act in 2015 by making conduit contributions in the names of other people, reimbursing contributions made by others, and being reimbursed for contributions he made. Over a five-year period – 2012 through 2016 – he made or solicited more than $250,000 in illegal campaign contributions, the press release said.

This matter was investigated by the FBI and IRS Criminal Investigation.

 

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