Washington, Dec 8 (IANS): A US-based Kashmiri separatist leader, accused of aiding a "decades-long" operation by Pakistan's spy agency to influence US policy on Kashmir by funnelling money to members of Congress, has pleaded guilty.
Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai, 62, admitted conspiracy and tax violations in the scheme to conceal the transfer of at least $3.5 million from the government of Pakistan to help fund his lobbying efforts, the Department of Justice announced Wednesday.
Fai, executive director of Washington-based Kashmiri American Council (KAC) was arrested in July. He faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison for the conspiracy charge and a maximum three years for the tax violation. Sentencing is set for next March.
According to the Justice Department, as part of the plea agreement, Fai is forfeiting his interest in nearly $143,000 seized by the government.
Another individual, Zaheer Ahmad, 63, a US citizen and resident of Pakistan, is also charged with involvement in the conspiracy but remains at large, possibly in Pakistan.
According to court documents, KAC was secretly funded by officials employed by the Pakistani government, including the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
The US government said the council maintained it was run by Kashmiris and financed by Americans to raise US awareness about the self-determination fight among the Kashmiri people.
"For the last 20 years, Fai secretly took millions of dollars from Pakistani intelligence and lied about it to the US government," said US Attorney Neil MacBride.
"As a paid operative of ISI, he did the bidding of his handlers in Pakistan while he met with US elected officials, funded high-profile conferences and promoted the Kashmiri cause to decision-makers in Washington."