Federal Bureau of Investigation - Los Angeles Field Office

09/15/2023 | Press release | Archived content

Former Ambassador and U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Sentenced for Violating Federal Disclosure Laws and Unlawfully Aiding and Advising Foreign[...]

Defendant Admitted Violating "Revolving Door" Prohibitions

WASHINGTON - Richard Gustave Olson, Jr., 63, of Algodones, New Mexico, a former U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan and a former U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, was sentenced today to 36 months' probation and a fine of $93,350 for two separate courses of conduct, both of which involved misconduct relating to his public office. The sentence was announced by U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves, U.S. Attorney E. Martin Estrada of the Central District of California, Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Department of Justice's National Security Division, and Assistant Director in Charge Donald Alway of the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office.

Olson pleaded guilty on June 3, 2022, in the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia, to one count of making a false writing and one count of aiding and advising a foreign government with the intent to influence decisions of United States officers.

Olson served as U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan from October 31, 2012, through November 17, 2015, and as U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan from November 17, 2015, through his retirement from government service on November 30, 2016. According to court documents, the defendant intentionally submitted a false ethics form that failed to disclose thousands of dollars of benefits he received from a businessman ("Person 1") while the defendant was serving in government. When later questioned by the FBI concerning some of these benefits, the defendant falsely claimed that he did not know Person 1 paid for them. After the defendant retired from government service, Person 1 began paying him a consulting fee of $20,000 per month. While receiving these payments, the defendant illegally helped the government of Qatar influence U.S. policymakers in violation of laws meant to prevent recent retirees from leveraging their high-level U.S. government service to further foreign interests.

Given his high-level position in the U.S. government, the defendant was subject to the "revolving door" prohibitions in 18 U.S.C. § 207(f) for one year after leaving government service. Congress enacted these prohibitions to prevent public officials from unfairly profiting from the contacts, associations, and special knowledge that they gained during their tenure as public servants. The phrase "revolving door" describes the practice of public officials abandoning public service for lobbying positions. Prohibitions on this practice, often referred to as mandatory "cooling-off" or "waiting" periods, forbid individuals from engaging in lobbying activities for a period of time after leaving public service. U.S. 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 U.S. government for one year after leaving their positions. The defendant knowingly violated these prohibitions by providing aid and advice in furtherance of two Qatari goals: (1) convincing U.S. policymakers to establish U.S. Customs and Border Protection preclearance facilities at Doha International Airport, and (2) convincing U.S. policymakers to support Qatar, rather than its regional rivals, during the 2017 Gulf Diplomatic Crisis. After learning that the government was investigating his activities on behalf of Qatar, the defendant obstructed the government's investigation by deleting relevant emails.

This case was investigated by the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office and Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel J. O'Brien of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Stuart D. Allen of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia and Deputy Chief Evan N. Turgeon of the National Security Division's Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.