Ex-US Ambassador given three years probation, heavy fine

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Former US Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Olson on Friday was sentenced to three-year probation and ordered to pay $93,400 for lying in ethics paperwork and violating so-called “revolving door” laws by lobbying for Qatar within one year of retiring from federal service.   

“I have paid a very heavy price for the mistakes that I made,” 63-year-old Olson told Judge G Michael Harvey ahead of the sentencing, adding that he was “professionally ostracised” and had lost his reputation and income. 

In the Friday hearing the prosecutor accused Olson — who served as Pakistan’s ambassador from 2012 to 2015 and was embroiled in a number of scandals — of continuously denying accountability by trying to put his crimes down as “paperwork errors”.

Among the scandals Olson was involved in but not tried for, were allegations of multiple extramarital affairs and his decision to withhold four pieces of diamond jewellery worth $60,000 during his stint as the head of the US Consulate in Dubai.  

Prosecutor Evan Turgeon argued that “When a defendant continues to deny that his behaviour was wrong, a probationary sentence is not appropriate,” Mr Turgeon said. “If people are allowed to act like the rules don’t apply to them, then they will,” he said.

While Olson was ultimately able to avoid a prison sentence, his confession of two misdemeanour charges made a six-month jail stint likely at one point.

He admitted in June of last year to making a false statement and violating laws governing lobbying for a foreign government.

Olson was accused of helping the government of Qatar influence US policymakers shortly after retiring from the State Department in 2016.

“US law prohibits senior officials — like the defendant — from representing a foreign government before any federal agency or from aiding or advising a foreign entity with the intent to influence the US government for one year after leaving their positions,” the US Attorney’s Office for Washington said in a statement.

“The defendant took numerous steps to conceal these illegal activities, including deleting incriminating emails and lying to the FBI during a recorded interview,” it said.

According to the US Attorney’s Office, Olson, while serving as the US envoy to Pakistan, also received favors and benefits from a Pakistani-American businessman identified in court documents only as “Person 1.”

They included $25,000 paid to Olson’s then-girlfriend to help pay her tuition at Columbia University in New York and $18,000 in first-class travel for the ambassador to attend a job interview in London.

“One major favor was that the defendant agreed to lobby members of Congress on Person 1’s behalf with respect to weapon sales to Pakistan and Middle Eastern countries that Person 1 was trying to broker,” the US Attorney’s office said.

According to The Washington Post, “Person 1” is Imaad Zuberi, who was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2021 for making illegal campaign contributions and other offenses.

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