Sri Lanka $6.5 Million paid to U.S. Lobbyists but Transaction Looks Fishy
Sri Lanka paid an estimated $6.5 million between May and September 2014 to Imaad Zuberi, and his WR Group. Zuberi also happened to be a major fundraiser for the Obama campaign.
Reports from Foreign Policy are that past members of the Sri Lankan government hired Zuberi to help them with an unspecified project. Authorizing payments while ignoring government policies for making such payment. The officials also used private email accounts to set up the deals.
Strangely, the Foreign Policy article also showed a picture of Zuberi with none other than Hillary Clinton, who’s having her own issues after doing U.S. Government work from a private email account. The Zuberi story has more twists and turns than a good spy novel.
The $6.5 million was paid in four installments. But the first two were invoiced from a business owned by Zuberi’s wife with instructions to pay funds directly to Zuberi’s personal Bank of America account. The deal was with WR Group supposedly. But there is no paperwork showing the terms of that deal. The third and fourth payments were made directly to WR Group.
It appears WR Group was not a legally formed entity until those later payments were made. So Sri Lanka had a deal with a company that was not even a company at the time all the parties agreed to the deal.
Further problems arise because neither Zuberi nor WR Group filed the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) reports with the U.S. Justice Department as required whenever a U.S. company is acting as an business agent for foreign governments or their entities. It seems Mr. Zuberi’s role was getting Sri Lankan officials in touch with U.S. policymakers. For that he received at least $2 million personally.
According to Mr. Zuberi, he helped Sri Lankan officials make “hundreds of contacts with government officials, think tanks, and journalists, and arranged meetings on Capitol Hill.” When asked about his role, Zuberi said, “[W]e are not a lobbying firm, law firm, nor PR firm. Therefore we do not engage in these activities because these are not our core competencies,” insisted Mr. Zuberi. “I registered not as a lobbyist but as a consultant because that was the extent of my involvement.”
Zuberi said money is still owed on the original contract, but they wound down their efforts ahead of the projected completion because no progress was happening. It is interesting, but still no one seems certain what Zuberi and the other U.S. companies paid by the former Sri Lankan government were contracted to accomplish.
Time will tell.