Imaad Zuberi, a California businessman who had for many years been a major donor to all sorts of Democratic political campaigns, was sentenced on Thursday, Feb. 18, to 12 years in prison for hatching and enacting schemes to illegally funnel foreign money into American political campaigns.

To make matters even worse for him, there is evidence that Zuberi also intended to take millions of dollars of these illegal foreign contributions and funnel them to himself.

Zuberi’s Offenses

Zuberi was convicted of a long series of different financial crimes, some of which were connected to the use of foreign funds to bankroll U.S. political candidates and influence American elections.

He made more than $950,000 in unlawful donations, said to come from unknown foreign donors, to politicians like former President Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton, the late Senator John McCain and many other politicians.

He also donated to Hillary Clinton in 2016 but pivoted to backing Republicans after Trump took the White House that year, apparently trying to hedge his bets.

According to the L.A. Times, Zuberi even received $5.65 million in payments from Sri Lanka in an effort to influence U.S. government policy. He was also charged with cheating foreign clients and with tax evasion.

Daniel O’Brien, the Assistant U.S. Attorney who brought charges against Zuberi described him as “purely a mercenary, funneling money to whomever he believed would do his bidding.”

In a moment of candor, Zuberi admitted to the New York Times back in 2019, “To open doors, I have to donate. It’s just a fact of life.”

His Punishment

Virginia Phillips, U.S. District Judge for the Central District of California, fined Zuberi $1.75 million and ordered him to pay a further $15.7 million in unpaid taxes. He was further sentenced to 12 years in prison.

In a news release from the DOJ, Tracy L. Wilkison, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California, said of the case that “Mr. Zuberi flouted federal laws that restrict foreign influences upon our government and prohibit injecting foreign money into our political campaigns. He enriched himself by defrauding his clients and evading the payment of taxes.”