U.S. lobbyist accused of violating Sudan sanctions

WASHINGTON Tue Oct 27, 2009 3:29pm EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. lobbyist has been charged with violating Sudanese sanctions regulations, acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign power, money laundering, passport fraud and making false statements, the Justice Department said on Tuesday.

Robert Cabelly, 61, a former State Department employee and the managing director of a Washington, D.C., consulting firm, was charged in an eight-count indictment that was unsealed and announced on Tuesday.

According to the indictment, between 2005 and mid-2007 Cabelly performed work on behalf of Sudan, a country designated by the State Department as a sponsor of terrorism since 1993, without the U.S. government's required approval.

"The conduct alleged in this indictment is broad in scope and very serious," said David Kris, assistant attorney general for national security. "We will continue to pursue anyone who seeks to violate U.S. sanctions."

The U.S. government has long had in place a trade embargo against the Sudanese government. In the continuing conflict between the government and rebel factions in the western region of Sudan known as Darfur, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and millions have been displaced.

Cabelly worked on African issues at the State Department in the 1980s and 1990s, during the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan, George Herbert Walker Bush and Bill Clinton, a U.S. government official said.

After he left government and became a lobbyist, Cabelly brokered business deals benefiting Sudan and also provided Sudan with sensitive U.S. government information, the Justice Department said.

It said Cabelly was accused of engaging in illegal business relationships with the oil industry in Sudan, operating as an intermediary between Sudanese government officials and oil company executives and a foreign oil company.

Cabelly directed the foreign firm to deposit more than $180,000 of his fees in an offshore account in the Cook Islands in an effort to conceal that the money had been obtained in violation of the sanctions, according to the indictment.

Cabelly provided strategic advice to Sudanese officials, including about economic development and trade, especially about developing the country's petroleum reserves and its government-controlled airline industry, the department said.

In October 2005, Cabelly began to be publicly pressured to drop Sudan as a client, including a letter from a U.S. member of Congress and news reports critical of his role.

He told the U.S. government in a letter dated February 7, 2006, that he had ended his representation of Sudan, but according to indictment he conspired with several unnamed individuals to keep providing services to Sudan and to make money.

His conspirators included a Sudanese government official who was a former intelligence officer, a U.S. citizen living in Bahrain and a businessman from the Middle East.

According to the indictment, the Sudanese official asked Cabelly to get information about U.S. policy on a specific African country. Cabelly in 2007 provided the information.

He was accused of misrepresenting to U.S. officials the nature of his relationship with Sudan and the foreign entities doing business in Sudan.

According to the indictment, he maintained two U.S. passports -- one to enter and exit the country and the other to obtain visas for travel to Sudan. He failed to disclose his travel to Sudan when he returned to the United States.

(Editing by Vicki Allen)

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