Washington: Pakistan's ISI could try its best to rescue Ghulam Nabi Fai, accused of being on its payroll for 20 years and funnelling its cash into the US to influence lawmakers on Kashmir, feel federal prosecutors, who also claim that the Kashmiri separatist had lived "a life of lies".
Assistant US Attorney Gordon Kromberg said ISI has a wide network of supporters and agents across the globe and would try its best to rescue 62-year-old Fai, head of the Kashmiri American Council who has been put under house arrest with electronic surveillance and an unsecured bond of USD 100,000.
"Based on the information in the complaint and to a large degree conceded by Mr Fai after his arrest, he has been an agent of the Pakistani intelligence service for more than 20 years," he said.
"As such it is likely that the Pakistani intelligence service has an obligation to try to protect Mr Fai from getting prosecuted for being their agent. As a result, he likely has a network of support internationally from the secret service of a foreign government," Kromberg said.
"There is no doubt at this point that he agrees that he has been an affiliate of the Pakistani Secret Services Intelligence Directorate Agency for, he says, 15 years, we say more than 20. Either way he has been in contact with his handlers hundreds and thousands of times," he said.
The ISI has facilities throughout Europe, Kromberg said.
"As we stated in the complaint there are equivalent Kashmiri centres in London and Belgium. He (Fai) could obtain assistance from the ISI without going to Pakistan. He has gotten millions of dollars over the last 20 years from the ISI in the US through a network of supporters, through a network of people used by Zaheer Ahmed (another US citizen charged along with him) to transfer ISI money to Fai," he said.
Noting that Ahmed -- who is believed to be in Pakistan -- is still free, Kromberg said in court there is no reason to believe that Ahmed cannot get money to Fai even to this day in America or elsewhere around the world.
"The complaint explains Zaheer Ahmad obtained money, arranged for thousands of dollars for Mr Fai to be passed to Mr Fai when Mr Fai was in Turkey. There is no doubt that through the ISI Mr Fai can get assistance financially and otherwise all around the world," he said.
"Mr Fai has travelled internationally by my counts over 35 times in the past five years. He is a seasoned traveller. He is comfortable travelling. He left Kashmir when he was in trouble with the Government in Kashmir and he never returned," the Assistant US Attorney said.
Kromberg said Fai told the FBI Special Agent that he fled Kashmir to Saudi Arabia when he learnt he would be arrested in Kashmir.
"And by his own account, he has not returned to Kashmir since then. He is a traveller; he has access to help from a foreign intelligence service. He is an agent of foreign intelligence service," he said.
"Even if as the defence suggested everything he does is not for the foreign intelligence service, it is undisputed that some of the things that he does is for the foreign intelligence service.”
"As a result foreign intelligence service likely has obligations to the defendant and is likely to try to help him and therefore (he is) is a risk of flight and we can't assure that he would be around for trial," said the US attorney.
Responding to Kromberg's remarks, Nina Ginsberg, Fai's attorney, said that it was "a wild speculation" that ISI might try to rescue Fai.
"I think Mr Kromberg's wild speculation that the ISI has some obligation to protect Dr Fai is totally unfounded and is mere speculation," she said. "The government has been listening to Dr Fai's conversation to the Pakistanis... If there had ever been a single conversation which would suggest that Dr Fai was acting as their agent and were he to get into trouble they would protect him, I am absolutely certain that Mr Kromberg would have told you about it," Ginsberg told the judge.
"There is no evidence whatsoever to support the speculation of what might happen in some foreign country and in fact the only public statements that the Pakistani government has made since Dr Fai's arrest is to deny the allegations strenuously and to accuse the United States that it is bringing these charges in retaliation for the conduct of the Pakistani government with respect to American officials. So there is no basis for that kind of inflammatory accusation," she said.
Ginsberg said Fai has been on the government radar for a very long time.
"He has travelled always in the open," she said, adding that Fai was never hesitant in meeting FBI agent Sarah Linden when she requested for a meeting.
"Agent Linden conceded I think that he knew that he was on the radar. She asked to meet with him. He was leaving the country, he was going to London. She asked to meet with him. He did not had any hesitation about meeting with her.”
"He said, 'I am happy to meet with you, but I am going to London, I will be back in four-five days and would meet you the day after I return'. And that is exactly what he did," Ginsberg said, arguing that Fai is not a flight risk.
Fai made no efforts whatsoever to flee and there is absolutely no reason to think that he would, she insisted.
In fact, if he were to run from these charges he would essentially be abandoning his life's work, she said, adding that there is very strong evidence that he has no intent to flee. Kromberg also claimed that Fai has lived a life of lies and never told his board members, US lawmakers and heads of state during his meetings with them that he received money from the ISI and was working for the Pakistani spy agency.
"He (Fai) was living a lie when he spoke to politicians, spoke to members of Congress, spoke to heads of state. He did not say I get my money from ISI. He said, I get my money from indigenous American organisation.”
"Well it (Kashmiri American Council headed by Fai) is an indigenous American organisation, but it is funded by the ISI," Kromberg told the Virginia court during Fai's detention hearing.
Most of KAC's funding comes from the ISI, he said.
"The bulk of the funding has always come from the ISI. It was set up by the ISI. That's not showing respect to law enforcement, to heads of state, to the members of the Congress, to his own board of directors, to any of his supporters."
Kromberg was responding to the remarks of Fai's attorney that the Kashmiri separatist had "nothing but respect" for the law enforcement agencies, a statement which was objected to even by the judge.
"This is a man who showed nothing but respect for law enforcement and has earned the respect at least until now, literally of the heads of state," Ginsberg, a criminal lawyer, said before the court.
At this point the judge himself intervened. "This is little bit of an over statement to say 'nothing but respect' when (there are) allegations that he was not truthful to law enforcement," the judge said.
"I said up to this point. I understand, he has made a case. He has made a false statement before the law enforcement agency," Ginsberg said.
Kromberg said Fai has admitted before the FBI that he has been affiliated with the ISI. "He admitted that he submitted budget to his (ISI) handlers. Each year the ISI either approved his budget or partially approved his budget."
"He agreed that an ISI agent gave money to Zaheer Ahmed and arranged for Zaheer Ahmed's contacts in the USA to give the money to Fai," Kromberg said.
"He agreed that the ISI directs Dr Fai to go to certain conferences and report on certain people including some that were mentioned in the criminal complaint. Finally, he said that he never told the Board of Directors that the Kashmiri American Council is supported and funded by the ISI."
First Published: Sunday, July 31, 2011, 16:07