We reported last year that 2 men were being prosecuted in the federal District Court in Chicago for engaging in “public relations, political consulting and lobbying” US officials to lift sanctions against President Robert Mugabe and others on the US Zimbabwe sanctions list, in exchange for the promise of payment.
One of them, Prince Asiel Ben Israel, has today been sentenced to 7 1/2 months in prison. He had pleaded guilty to trying to persuade US government officials, including an Illinois state senator and two US representatives from Chicago, to push for the lifting of the sanctions imposed in 2003 on President Robert Mugabe and other Zimbabwean government officials. His co-defendant C Gregory Turner has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.
The position of the US Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) is that lobbying is not covered by an OFAC licence authorising the provision of legal services to people on a US sanctions list, and is therefore a criminal offence. Although OFAC licences authorise “representation of persons before any federal or state agency with respect to the imposition, administration, or enforcement of U.S. sanctions against such persons”, OFAC does not consider Congress or State legislatures to be “agencies”.