Ex-US Ambassador to plead guilty for illegally lobbying for Qatar
A US Justice Department filing reveals that a former US ambassador breached government laws and was paid to lobby for Qatar on two occasions.
The New York Times revealed that Richard Olson - a retired US diplomat who recently served as Ambassador to Pakistan and the UAE, confirmed that "he would plead guilty to charges of illegally lobbying for the government of Qatar."
Court documents mentioned that Olson, who worked as a Foreign Service officer for 34 years, also failed to "disclose gifts he received while he was an ambassador."
When he retired, Olson was a US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, where he reported directly to Secretary of State John Kerry.
He was an ambassador in the UAE from 2008 to 2011, and an ambassador in Pakistan from 2012 to 2015.
Violation of US government laws
According to a US Justice Department filing, "Olson had avoided disclosing in required ethics documents that he had received a first-class airplane ticket from New Mexico to London valued at more than $18,000 and a stay in a luxury hotel in London in January 2015," The New York Times highlighted.
"The payments were made by a Pakistani American businessman whose name was not revealed in the documents. In London, the ambassador met with a businessman from Bahrain, who soon offered him a one-year contract with a salary of $300,000 that would start after he left the State Department," the newspaper indicated.
It is noteworthy that the US government forbids senior officials from lobbying for foreign entities for a one-year period after they leave the government.
The New York Times pointed out that "Olson violated this when he went to work for the Pakistani American businessman in December 2016 and began receiving monthly payments of $20,000. The businessman’s company did lobbying for the government of Qatar."
Olson was paid to lobby Trump administration officials
The Justice Department said in the filings that Olson lobbied on behalf of Qatar in Washington on two issues.
The first issue was to persuade US officials to "establish a U.S. Customs and Border Protection preclearance facility in the main airport in Doha, Qatar. Having such a facility gives a host country and its national airlines significant advantages in operating flights to the United States — the airlines can fly directly to more than 160 destinations in the United States even if the U.S. airport has no customs clearance facilities," The New York Times noted.
The Pakistani American businessman’s company was being paid by a Qatari official-associated company to urge Washington to build the facility in Doha, the prosecutors indicated in the filing.
The second time Olson lobbied on behalf of Qatar in the US was "after Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic ties with Qatar in 2017 and blocked flights and ships from Qatar from using their airspace and sea lanes."
In their filing, Justice Department prosecutors noted that "Olson was paid to lobby officials in the Trump administration to encourage the U.S. government to help get the blockade lifted and repair diplomatic relations among the Persian Gulf nations."