/Who trapped disgraced US diplomat Richard Olson?

Who trapped disgraced US diplomat Richard Olson?

Imaad Shah Zuberi (Left) and former US ambassador to Pakistan Richard Olson. — X/@zuberiii/AFP/File
Imaad Shah Zuberi (Left) and former US ambassador to Pakistan Richard Olson. — X/@zuberiii/AFP/File

The identity of the jailed Pakistani American lobbyist who paid $20,000 monthly to Richard Olson — the disgraced former US ambassador to Pakistan who was sentenced to a 3-year probation by a US federal court on Friday — has been confirmed by Geo News, along with his in-depth activities.

Two American officials not authorised to speak about the case on record have confirmed to this scribe that Imaad Shah Zuberi, a Pakistani American with an Indian mother is the man behind those illegal payments.

Zuberi is currently serving 144 months in federal prison in the United States of America for multiple crimes. He is convicted of illegal lobbying, campaign contribution crimes, tax evasion, and obstruction of justice.

Zuberi’s family hails from Karachi. He had positioned himself as a venture capitalist and power broker in Los Angeles funding high-profile US politicians. He was considered a Democrat and known to comfortably rub shoulders with top political leaders including Clintons, Obama, and Joe Biden to name a few.

He contacted numerous foreign diplomats offering to lobby for them while making high-level political contacts in many countries including native Pakistan. Showcasing his dazzling array of US political contacts, he would solicit business deals and access to powerful foreign officials.

In 2016, the fast-moving, glib-talking Zuberi already on the radar for alleged criminal activity against a foreign consulate in LA, drew the focused attention of the FBI and IRS-Criminal investigation when he abruptly ditched Hillary Clinton — for whom he raised millions over the years — and went across the aisle to support Republican Trump with a $900,000 donation.

Credible sources have confirmed that Zuberi was at the headquarters of the then Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton awaiting victory celebration.

Yet, as the surveys proved wrong and results kept showing Donald Trump winning the presidency, Zuberi called a close associate of the Republican presidential candidate and committed a huge sum of money. To the utter surprise of his Democrat colleagues, he immediately left for Trump’s camp.

In June 2020, he pleaded guilty in a federal investigation to the $900,000 donation through his shell company to the Trump presidential inaugural committee. It was revealed that some of the funds Zuberi donated had come from other people, including foreign sources and fake as well as concealed donors.

Before being imprisoned for 12 years, high-flying Zuberi used to work with a number of foreign entities including the Qatari government soliciting huge fees while claiming he could use his political contacts to lobby for them.

Zuberi became close to Richard Olson who at that time was considered close to the then-president Barrack Obama and was appointed by him ambassador to Pakistan (2012-2015) and US Ambassador to the UAE (2008-2011).

In 2016, after retiring from government service, Olson created an entity called ‘Medicine Bear International Consulting LLC’.

Olson is now criminally charged for his alleged role in an undisclosed lobbying campaign for the Qatari government while serving as a foreign service officer.

He is also accused of not disclosing his trip to London undertaken with and paid for by Zuberi. Olson showed readiness to plead guilty.

In court papers, convict Zuberi’s name is not revealed. Yet, it is stated that a naturalised US citizen born in Pakistan met Olson in Islamabad. This meeting took place in March 2013 when the latter was serving as an ambassador.

From March 2013 through November 2016, this Pakistani American solicited Olson’s advice and assistance in his capacity as ambassador with respect to a variety of business matters.

He also used Olson to complain against a Pakistani diplomat Zuberi was trying to remove in Los Angeles in 2015.

The Pakistani diplomat had formally complained to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and State Department that Zuberi was undermining his office and running a smear campaign against him after his refusal to help Zuberi raise funds through the prosperous Pakistani-American community for Hillary Clinton. 

Zuberi had also attempted to bribe Consulate staff to obtain information.

Towards the end of 2016, after Olson retired from government service, the Pakistani American agreed to retain the services of Olson for $20,000 per month plus expenses.

On or about December 2016, Zuberi sent Olson his first monthly check payable to ‘Medicine Bear’ in the amount of $20,000.

Olson’s actions were in violation of the “revolving door” prohibitions on senior government officials who cannot represent foreign entities during a one-year “cooling off period” after retirement.

According to court papers, in January 2015, Olson, who was still serving as US Ambassador to Pakistan, met the Pakistani American in Los Angeles and discussed the possibility that Olson might work for Pakistani American’s business associate, ‘Businessman 2’ — a citizen of Bahrain, who operated Businessman 2’s company. 

A few days later, Olson agreed to meet Zuberi as well as Businessman 2 in London on January 31.

Zuberi arranged for first-class airfare from New Mexico to London, as well as a luxury hotel stay.

In two months, Businessman 2’s company offered Olson a one-year contract after his retirement from the government that included compensation of $300,000 a year.

Knowing well the “revolving door” prohibitions, Olson still illegally started working for Zuberi and his company in December 2016.

Zuberi worked with the Qatari government as well. Here, Olson also provided advice to Qatar to facilitate lobbying US officials to establish US Customs preclearance facilities at Doha Airport.

In an email to Zuberi, Olson advised that it would be important to secure the support of the US Ambassador to Qatar.

Olson wrote: “I know her well but can’t do it….but, (you) can charm her she’s from LA.”

Zuberi sought Olson’s help again when in June 2017, US Congress identified Qatar as providing financial aid to Hamas.

In the next few days, Olson, Zuberi, and two more individuals along with a Qatari government official travelled to Doha.

They went to the Royal palace to meet top Qatari officials but Zuberi was not permitted to attend the meetings.

Upon arrival back in Washington, Zuberi along with Olson met with a number of US lawmakers to support Qatar.

Zuberi operated through a one-man shell company ‘Avenue Ventures LLC’, pretending to be a large venture capital firm, whereas the company had one part-time employee and his Chinese wife posed as his secretary.

He solicited foreign nationals and representatives of foreign governments with claims he could use his political contacts in Washington, DC, to change US foreign policy and create business opportunities.

Zuberi also made efforts with the government of Bahrain to lift sanctions on an indicted Bahraini citizen to allow him to develop a resort in that country. The scheme falsely created the appearance that Avenue Ventures had made a major US investment in the project.

Citing this investment, Zuberi lobbied members of Congress to apply political pressure on Bahrain to cease its interference in the project, claiming it was adversely affecting him as a US investor.

At Zuberi’s urging, at least a dozen Congressmen sent letters to the government of Bahrain requesting it stop interfering with the project. Zuberi made these efforts after charging a fee that violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) Act.

Relatedly, Zuberi failed to report on his 2014 tax return millions of dollars he took from the Sri Lankan government claiming he could lobby and help with human rights abuses.

The full nature of Zuberi’s criminal activities is yet to be revealed. It is expected that a number of American and foreign officials will be scrutinised for compliant association with Zuberi.

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