A top bundler for Hillary Clinton and President Obama was never punished for waiting months to register his work on behalf of a foreign government, a delay that violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
Imaad Zuberi, a venture capitalist and high-dollar Democratic fundraiser, raked in millions of dollars working on behalf of the government of Sri Lanka and its central bank over the course of five months in 2014.
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Zuberi was paid $4.5 million by the Sri Lankan government throughout the life of the contract, while an additional $2 million went to a company associated with him at the time. Zuberi’s activities were not disclosed to the Justice Department’s Foreign Agents Registration (FARA) Unit within the time period required by law.
FARA requires anyone who acts as an agent for foreign principals "in a political or quasi-political capacity" to periodically update the Justice Department on the work they are performing. Foreign agents must also submit receipts and disbursements in relation to the work they perform. A new registrant who has taken on a foreign client must make the relationship known to the Justice Department within 10 days of signing a contract with the foreign entity.
Zuberi did not disclose his relationship with the Sri Lankan government within the 10-day time frame, only disclosing the relationship months after first receiving payments and just weeks before the end of the contract.
Zuberi first received a $3.5 million payment from the Sri Lankan government on May 9, 2014. The contract stipulated that Zuberi would be given $1 million per month for his representation between June and October of 2014.
The relationship between Zuberi and Sri Lanka ended in September 2014, according to the documents. Zuberi did not submit a short-form registration statement to the Justice Department until August 14, 2014—more than three months after he had first received a payment from the Sri Lankan government. By the end of the contract, Zuberi had been paid $4.5 million for his work by Sri Lanka.
Zuberi lists the California-based company Beltway Government Strategies, Inc. on his initial short-form registration document as the primary registrant address. Beltway Government Strategies registered with FARA on June 2, 2014. The company was incorporated on May 23, 2014, shortly before the group’s registration was filed with the Justice Department, and makes no reference to Zuberi on the company’s initial registration.
Zuberi gave Beltway Government Strategies hundreds of thousands for "public affairs consulting," the disclosures show. Beltway Government Strategies has been suspended and is no longer in operation, according to California Explore.
A group associated with Zuberi at the time, called the WR Group, did not register with FARA until September 15, 2014. The Sri Lankan government paid the WR Group an additional $2 million, bringing the total amount of money paid throughout the contract to $6.5 million.
Sri Lanka also paid $115,000 for Zuberi and his associates’ trips. That sum included the cost of flights, hotels, ground transportation, food, and related travel expenses, according to the filings.
The contract with Sri Lanka was terminated on September 30, 2014.
"An agent must register within ten days of agreeing to become an agent and before performing any activities for the foreign principal," FARA’s enforcement section states. "No person shall act as an agent of a foreign principal unless he/she has filed with the Attorney General a true and complete registration statement and supplements. Unless he/she is exempt from registration under the provisions of this Act."
Failure to file the proper documentation carries a fine of up to $10,000 or a maximum of five years in prison.
Zuberi is a major Democratic donor, bundling $685,000 for President Obama between 2007 and 2012. Zuberi was a co-chair on Obama’s National Finance Committee and served on the board of directors of Organizing for Action, a nonprofit that pushes Obama’s agenda.
Zuberi is now a top bundler for Hillary Clinton, pulling in more than $100,000 for the Democratic nominee, earning him a spot on Clinton’s National Finance Committee. He has also donated between $250,000 and $500,000 to the Clinton Foundation. Zuberi was tapped to be a member of Clinton’s Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Leadership Council in January.
Zuberi was potentially linked to a Justice Department probe involving the Sri Lankan government, Foreign Policy reported last year.
FARA has faced scrutiny in recent weeks following the release of a report from the Justice Department’s inspector general that revealed few are punished under the statute despite rampant abuse by those who fall under its auspices.
The inspector general report found that the 63 percent of the registration forms of new registrants had not been submitted to FARA on time. The report also found that half of filers were late in filing required updates about their activities on behalf of foreign clients, Politico reported.
The agency has also failed to enforce the rules when foreign agents have been caught taking liberties with their disclosure forms, according to the inspector general, which said the department lacks an all-encompassing strategy for enforcement. The agency instead has a tendency to bring foreign agents who are in violation of the law into compliance rather than taking action against them.
The Justice Department’s FARA unit did not respond to inquiries from the Washington Free Beacon. Zuberi did not return an email seeking comment.