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Trump inauguration donor sentenced to 12 years in federal inquiry

A California venture capitalist was sentenced to 12 years in prison Thursday after pleading guilty to charges that included obstructing a federal investigation into a donation of nearly $ 1 million to former President Donald’s inaugural committee J.

The businessman, Imaad Zuberi, was convicted by a federal judge in California and ordered to pay $ 1.75 million in criminal fines and $ 15.7 million in restitution.

Mr Zuberi, 50, pleaded guilty to the obstruction of justice charge last year. This stems from a federal investigation into the source of $ 900,000 he donated through his company, Avenue Ventures, to Mr. Trump’s inaugural committee in December 2016.

A lawyer for Mr. Zuberi declined to comment on Friday. He acknowledged that his political donations were intended to gain access to politicians, civil servants and business leaders.

“To open doors, I have to donate,” he told The New York Times in 2019. “It’s just a reality.”

Mr. Zuberi had made large donations to Democrats, including committees supporting President Barack Obama, and then Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, before flipping sharply to Republicans after Mr. Trump’s victory. In Washington political circles, he stood out less for the scale of his donations than for his transactional nature.

Mr. Zuberi said in 2019 that his donation to Mr. Trump’s inaugural fund was at least in part intended to give him access to inaugural events where he hoped to talk business with investors and executives backing Trump. But he said his participation in the inaugural events yielded no results – and backfired after his company’s donation was cited in a subpoena.

Zuberi was also convicted on Thursday on a series of other charges to which he pleaded guilty in 2019 and for which he could have faced a maximum sentence of 15 years in federal prison.

Some of the charges relate to nearly $ 1 million in illegal campaign donations made from April 2012 to October 2016 as part of a scheme to gain access to U.S. politicians for foreign clients. Some of these donations were funded by foreign sources.

Others have been linked to his work in Washington lobbying for the government of Sri Lanka, whose image he was trying to repair in Washington amid concerns over the country’s treatment of Tamil minority groups.

Zuberi forged records filed with the Justice Department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act in order to cover up his lobbying for Sri Lanka, the Justice Department said in a statement Thursday. This law, known as FARA, requires Americans to disclose detailed information about any lobbying or public relations work they do on behalf of foreign governments and political entities.

In addition, Mr. Zuberi failed to report and pay taxes on the $ 5.65 million he was paid for the Sri Lankan lobbying campaign, and embezzled most of the money “for the benefit of himself and his wife, ”said the statement from the Ministry of Justice.

“This phrase should deter others who seek to corrupt our political processes and compromise our institutions in exchange for currency,” John C. Demers, deputy attorney general for national security, said in the statement.

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