DOJ Announces Arrest in New FARA Case

The U.S. Department of Justice today announced the arrest of an alleged agent of the Iranian government, who has been charged with violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”).  The defendant is an Iranian political scientist, living in the United States as a permanent resident.  The Justice Department alleges that for years he has engaged in advocacy activities in the United States on behalf of the Iranian government, and that he has been paid approximately $265,000 for those services.  The advocacy allegedly included lobbying Members of Congress and the State Department, making television appearances, and writing articles.  The defendant is also alleged to have served as an advisor to the Iranian government.  The case was investigated by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, along with the FBI field offices in New York and Boston, reflecting the increasing involvement of U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and FBI field offices across the country in FARA investigations.

According to the Justice Department, the defendant emailed Iran’s Foreign Minister in July 2020 with links to his articles “in international newspapers and academic journals,” noting that “without support none of this would have been possible!  This has been a very productive relationship spanning decades that ought not to be interrupted.”  The Department also alleged that it has evidence reflecting the defendant’s awareness of his obligations under FARA, which is relevant to meeting the Department’s burden of proof that the defendant “willfully” violated FARA, which is a criminal statute.

This case reflects the continuing stream of prosecutions related to FARA, particularly with respect to what might be considered core FARA cases that involve paid advocacy for foreign governments.  The arrest and unsealing of the criminal complaint in the new FARA case was announced today by John Demers, the outgoing Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division, one day before the end of the Trump Administration.  In March 2019, Demers announced a FARA enforcement initiative, including the appointment of a criminal prosecutor to head the Department’s FARA Unit.