In a major embarrassment to the Inter-Services Intelligence, United States-based Kashmiri separatist leader Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai, on Wednesday pleaded guilty to federal charges of spying for the Pakistani spy agency and illegally lobbying the Congress to influence the American policy on Kashmir.
Fai, 62, also acknowledged secretly receiving money from the ISI through clandestine routes and causing revenue losses to the US government to the tune of USD 200,000 to 400,000.
Pleading before the US Eastern District Court of Virginia, Fai, head of the Kashmiri American Council (KAC) pleaded guilty and agreed to the charges of federal prosecutors that he received at least USD 3.5 million from ISI between 1990 and 2011.
His sentencing is scheduled for March 9. Fai agreed before the court that he was in direct contact with the ISI officials including the head of its security directorate.
The guilty plea was announced by Neil MacBride, US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.
He conceded receiving talking points from ISI regarding what to say and write. He agreed that he received directions from ISI with regard to which specific individuals to invite for KAC conferences.
Fai has consented to forfeit all four bank accounts in his name or in the name of KAC totalling about USD 140,000. He also agreed before the court that he had send to the ISI annual budget of the KAC for approval.
"For the last 20 years, Mr Fai secretly took millions of dollars from Pakistani intelligence and lied about it to the US government," said US Attorney 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."
"Syed Fai admitted his role in a decades-long scheme to conceal the fact that the government of Pakistan was secretly funding his efforts to influence US policy on Kashmir," said Assistant Attorney General Monaco.
Fai continues to be under house arrest till the time of his sentencing. Fai was arrested on spying charges on July 19 and then put under house arrest.
A resident of Fairfax Virginia, an affluent suburb of Washington DC, Fai is the head KAC and claimed to lobby on behalf of the people of Kashmir.
Fai admitted that, from 1990 until about July 18, 2011, he conspired with others to obtain money from officials employed by the government of Pakistan, including the ISI, for the operation of the KAC in the United States, and that he did so outside the knowledge of the US government and without attracting the attention of law enforcement and regulatory authorities.
To prevent the Justice Department, FBI, Department of Treasury and the IRS from learning the source of the money he received from officials employed by the government of Pakistan and the ISI, Fai made a series of false statements and representations, according to court documents.
Fai provided letters from the KAC to the straw donors documenting that their purported "donations" to the KAC were tax deductible and encouraged these donors to deduct the transfers as "charitable" deductions on their personal tax returns.
Fai concealed from the IRS that the straw donors' purported KAC "donations" were reimbursed by Ahmad, using funds received from officials employed by the ISI and the government of Pakistan.
An affidavit filed in July had alleged that although the KAC held itself out to be a Kashmiri organisation run by Kashmiris and financed by Americans, it was one of three "Kashmir Centers" that are actually run by elements of the Pakistani government, including ISI. The two other Kashmir Centers are in London and Brussels.