On August 8, 2013, we reported that federal prosecutors in Chicago unsealed a criminal complaint alleging that two men violated U.S. sanctions by lobbying on behalf of Zimbabwe. In the earlier post, we noted that the defendants’ alleged activities appeared to have also violated federal law related to unregistered foreign agents, and we speculated that foreign agent charges “could still be added in a subsequent indictment.”
Proving that our speculation was prescient, prosecutors have now indicted the two defendants on several charges, including foreign agent charges. Both of the defendants, Prince Asiel Ben Israel and C. Gregory Turner, were indicted for acting in the United States as an agent of a foreign government without notifying the attorney general, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 951. Additionally, Ben Israel was indicted for failing to file a registration statement under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”). Both men were also charged with conspiracy and sanctions violations.
Although Turner’s activities may have been sufficient to support a FARA charge, only Ben Israel was indicted for a failure to register under FARA. The indictment does not specifically identify a reason for the distinction, but it appears that only Ben Israel was a party to the written “Consulting Agreement” with Zimbabwe. Moreover, the distinction may reflect the Justice Department’s preference for pursuing FARA prosecutions only for willful violations of core requirements of the statute.
The prosecutions of Ben Israel and Turner continue the recent trend of increased enforcement of FARA and others laws related to foreign lobbying. For these reasons, lobbying firms, consulting firms, public relations firms, and many others should be vigilant about FARA issues whenever they are engaged by a foreign government, company, or individual.