Investigative Group

Dem IT Aide Used Political Influence To Have Fraud Charges Dropped In Pakistan, Paper Says

The family of Imran Awan, the now-indicted former IT aide to Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and other Democrats, was previously accused of fraud in Pakistan involving “huge chunks” of land, but the charges were dropped because “Awan’s son had easy access to the corridors of power,” according to a detailed article in a Pakistani newspaper.

Elderly farmers said Imran’s father ripped them off, but local police dropped charges against Imran’s father and targeted his accusers after alleged pressure from Pakistani national-level politicians, the Sept. 3, 2009, article in Dawn reported. The story was headlined, “Influential expat shields father from long arm of law.”

A Democratic IT aide said Imran told him a similar story in a House cafeteria in 2009 and said Imran claimed he persuaded Rahm Emanuel — the Obama White House chief of staff who employed the Awan family during his days as a congressman — to intervene. The Dawn article refers to Imran as a White House employee.

The dropped charges and alleged punishing of victims raise questions about whether congressional employers pulled in favors, and how an IT aide could have such influence. The Awans had access to the emails of 45 members of Congress.

The entire Awan family was on the payroll of House Democrats as IT aides, and most earned as much as chiefs of staffs, taking in more than $5 million in pay. The 45 current members of Congress who employed the crew have refused to criticize him and have not said they’ve done anything to assess the integrity of their data despite a steady stream of suspicious conduct.

The office of Emanuel, who is now mayor of Chicago, did not respond to a request for comment.

The IT aide relayed the 2009 story from the House cafeteria to The Daily Caller News Foundation in February, along with other details of Imran’s activities that were later independently confirmed. His account lined up with the article, except that Imran told the aide his father was being harassed wrongfully in Pakistan. After seeing the Dawn article, TheDCNF asked the aide if he had read the article, and he said he was not aware of any news article.

“He told me the whole story verbatim: the person who got him in the orbit was Rahm Emanuel, who left to be [White House] chief of staff,” the aide said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of job concerns. “Imran told me his family has lots of business interests in Pakistan, and his dad was ripped off. He [had] worked for Rahm Emanuel and got him to call” the State Department to intervene, he said. “Pakistan is one of those countries where if you have pull you can get people locked up.”

During the time the Awans worked for Emanuel, he was chair of the House Democratic Caucus, and the Awans were rapidly added to the payrolls of many other members of the caucus. Shortly before the 2016 election, House authorities found major security breaches, including massive amounts of data leaving the House network with the caucus server as the epicenter.

Dawn reported that Awan’s father, Muhammad Ashraf Awan, failed to pay a dozen farmers for their land. Relatives told TheDCNF the Awans have a stake in a major real estate development that is essentially a town called Gulshan-e-Fareed.

“About a dozen farmers of Chak 7-JB, Panjor, including five siblings — all aged between 57 and 70 — have given up hope of justice after they sold their agricultural lands to Ashraf Awan of Bole De Jhugi, who is father of White House employee Shahid Imran, against Rs55 million sale consideration but the money he owed against the purchases never realised,” Dawn reported. Imran Awan also goes by Shahid Imran Awan.

Awan had purchased “huge chunks of land from different farmers in 2008,” but the all the checks bounced. “The police high-ups are ‘ominously’ indifferent to proceed against Awan,” the newspaper continued, saying it was “noteworthy” how fervently they were “complying with the desires of the US national.”

“Sources said that some ‘power muscles’ in the federal capital as well as in the provincial capital had phoned the local police to lend all sorts of help to the US national and his father,” Dawn reported.

Police booked Awan and let him out on bail, but Imran then influenced the police to charge the complainants with crimes, according to Dawn. The police “harassed” the would-be victims and implicated them in what they said were “frivolous” cases, the article continued. They charged 19 would-be victims, including the five elderly brothers and even their lawyer, apparently to get them to stop trying to get their land back, the paper said.

“Mohammad Abid, a victim of Awan’s alleged high-profile swindling, said that Awan’s son had easy access to the corridors of power and that’s why he was able to [pressure] the police to dance to his tunes,” Dawn reported.

Imran allegedly claimed the elderly men had “subjected him to severe torture and snatched Rs 4 million from him.” The men said none of them were even nearby at the time, and they would swear to it.

According to the account, Imran tried to swindle his father’s business partners just days after his own mother was killed in a car accident.

“Bushra Bibi, another victim of Awan, said that her husband Shabbir Ahmed was Awan’s business partner and he was killed in an accident a couple of months ago along with Awan’s wife,” the article continued. “She said that Ashraf … had got some properties of her children transferred in his name by exerting influence and pressure. She said that now Imran was threatening her with dire consequences for not transferring the remaining properties to his father’s name.”

“They have also implicated my brother-in-law, Saeed, who lives in Lahore and works in the agriculture department, in a false case,” the paper quoted her as saying.

Imran Awan and his wife Hina Alvi were indicted on fraud charges this summer for allegedly transferring hundreds of thousands of dollars obtained under false pretenses to Pakistan. In September, Alvi filed a lawsuit in Pakistan against her husband, saying he had committed fraud and also threatened her with “dire consequences” if she “intervenes.”

“Awan’s father was dying and he had a land deal they were trying to help him fix, and there’s no allegation of anything wrong with that deal,” Imran’s lawyer Chris Gowen said in a federal court on Oct. 6.

Gowen later told TheDCNF “there were attempts to steal the property from the father” and acknowledged that Imran was sending money to Azhar Awan. Azhar is a member of the Faislabad police force. “You need to understand how land purchases work in Pakistan, and I don’t have time to explain it to you,” he said of the payments.

Sampson Winfield, a former business partner of the elder Awan in Virginia, told TheDCNF Awan openly bragged about having stolen the land and said he was dirt poor when he first came to the U.S. “He was a big fraud. They took a lot of people’s land, I told him on judgment day you’re going to be in trouble,” he said.

Imran’s lawyer told the Washington Examiner the wires to Pakistan were to “help their family with a land deal in Pakistan that was quickly souring, and further asserts that the FBI discovered issues with the loans only because they seized Awan’s computer as a part of the Congressional IT probe.”

In that probe, authorities found evidence that Imran was diverting congressional data off of members’ servers and also systematically altering purchase orders for equipment.

The father had a house in Springfield, Va., and was on disability. He died in January, and in a lawsuit in Virginia, his second wife, Samina Gilani, alleges that in her husband’s waning moments, Imran held her “captive” in her home, wiretapped her, and threatened to kidnap loved ones in Pakistan unless she signed a power of attorney giving him access to assets stored in the father’s name in Pakistan.

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