We reported last year that two 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. We also reported that Mr Ben Israel pleaded guilty in April 2014 and was sentenced to 7 months imprisonment.
A US federal jury has now (on 10th October) convicted Gregory Turner of one of three counts of lobbying on behalf of Zimbabwean government officials. He was acquitted of two charges of failure to register with the US Attorney General as an agent of a foreign power, and found guilty of a conspiracy count by acting on behalf of President Mugabe’s regime by organising a delegation of politicians to try to end the US sanctions first imposed against Zimbabwe in 2003.
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”.