Ex-US diplomat sentenced for ethics violations

Former Ambassador Richard Olson pleaded guilty last year to various charges of misusing his position for personal gain

Richard Olson, a former United States ambassador to Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates, was sentenced to three years of probation on Friday after pleading guilty last year to various federal ethics violations.

Olson, 63, entered a guilty plea in court in June 2022 to charges of making a false statement and violating laws related to lobbying the US government on behalf of a foreign country. The former State Department official, who served as US envoy to Pakistan from 2012 to 2015, had been accused of helping the government of Qatar exert influence over US lawmakers.

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

It added that Olson had taken “numerous steps to conceal these illegal activities, including deleting incriminating emails and lying to the FBI during a recorded interview.”

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Furthermore, the US Attorney’s Office said Olson had accepted and benefited from personal favors from a Pakistani-American businessman referred to in court documents as “Person 1.”

Among the personal favors received by Olson while he was working on behalf of US diplomatic efforts in Pakistan was a $25,000 contribution for an ex-girlfriend of Olson’s to pay for tuition at Columbia University in New York, it emerged in court. He also illegally accepted a gift of $18,000 to fund first-class travel arrangements to attend a job interview in the United Kingdom.

The Attorney’s Office also noted that Olson was involved in efforts by Person 1 to broker arms sales from the United States to Pakistan and Middle Eastern countries.

Person 1 has been identified by various news organizations, including the BBC, as Imaad Zuberi, a major donor to former US president Donald Trump, who was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2021, in part for making illegal campaign contributions to Trump’s inaugural committee.

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