Pakistani man in Maryland pleads guilty in rare foreign agent case

A Pakistani man pleaded guilty in federal court in Maryland to failing to disclose lobbying work on behalf of the Pakistani government, the Justice Department said Monday.

Nisar Ahmed Chaudhry, 71, who admitted to working as an unregistered foreign agent since 2012, faces a maximum prison term of five years when he is sentenced in July.

A federal law known as the Foreign Agents Registration Act requires people to disclose to the Justice Department when they lobby or perform other political activities in the U.S. on behalf of foreign governments. But the Justice Department has rarely brought criminal cases, choosing instead to encourage people to comply with the law rather than prosecute them when they fail to do so.

As part of his plea, Chaudhry, of Columbia, Maryland, admitted to secretly acting as an agent for the Pakistani government in an effort to get information about, and influence, U.S. government policies toward Pakistan.

Prosecutors say Chaudhry, who represented himself as the president of the Pakistan American League, organized roundtable discussions in the Washington area aimed at influencing U.S. policy and also traveled to Pakistan to brief government officials there on information that he had learned from American contacts.

Chaudhry told U.S. government officials, including Customs and Border Protection agents, and think-tank contacts that his work was solely educational in nature and not affiliated with the Pakistani government, the Justice Department said. In fact, prosecutors say, his activities were designed to shape American policy in a way that favored Pakistani interests.

A federal defender listed as representing Chaudhry did not immediately return a message seeking comment.