Local surgeon Bajwa pleads to federal charge
Anthony Borrelli, firstname.lastname@example.org
| @PSBABorrelli 6:03 p.m. EST November 7, 2014
A Broome County neurosurgeon pleaded guilty Friday to a federal charge of making a false statement to the FBI, related to money he donated to a Pakistani charitable organization.
Dr. Saeed Bajwa, a neurosurgeon for United Health Services and Lourdes Hospital in Binghamton, was indicted in November 2013 for felony counts of conspiracy and false statements. The indictment followed an FBI probe of the Kashmiri American Council, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., which prosecutors say was a front for Pakistani military intelligence.
On Friday, Bajwa, of Endicott, appeared in the U.S. District Court in Eastern Virginia. He is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 27.
He admitted he failed to disclose to the FBI in 2011 that he had earmarked half of his $10,000 donation to a Pakistani nonprofit — the Society for International Help — for a Pakistani woman’s college overseen by his uncle, according to his defense lawyer David Deitch, of Washington, D.C.
The FBI was investigating the Society for International Help and had asked Bajwa whether he or any of his relatives were getting reimbursed for any financial contributions.
As a result of Friday’s guilty plea, the U.S. Attorney’s Office dropped the conspiracy count against Bajwa, which related to tax deductions he claimed for money sent to Pakistani organizations. Prosecutors did not return a request for comment Friday.
Deitch said Friday he was pleased Bajwa could resolve the case by pleading to a “narrow issue” regarding a directed donation to Pakistan. Bajwa has also maintained innocence of the conspiracy charge and was glad to see it dropped, Deitch said.
The case against Bajwa had been set for a jury trial in December. It remains unclear if the conviction will have an impact on Bajwa’s medical licenses, Deitch said.
Bajwa has served as director of neurosurgery at UHS since 1995 and, since 2000, as president of the hospital’s medical staff. He was born in Pakistan but has lived in the Binghamton area since he finished his medical residency in June 1986. He is also in private practice as a neurosurgeon at Southern New York NeuroSurgical Group, P.C., in Johnson City.
Court records from the U.S. Attorney’s Office sketch out an alleged conspiracy that resulted in the charges against Bajwa.
Prosecutors said he was one of 10 “straw donors” who made contributions and charitable donations on behalf of the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, Pakistan’s military intelligence service that had spent 20 years covertly attempting to push U.S. foreign policy toward Pakistani control of Kashmir, a region disputed by Pakistan and India.
The Kashmiri American Council lobbies for and holds events to promote the cause of self-determination for Kashmir, officials said.
The group’s activities are primarily financed by Pakistani military intelligence, the FBI said when the investigation was announced in July 2011.
The alleged conspiracy also involved Zaheer Ahmad, a U.S. citizen who founded the Shifa International Hospital in Pakistan, prosecutors said. He also served on the Society for International Help board of directors and exerted “significant ... control over its finances,” prosecutors said.
Ahmad arranged for the transfer of at least $3.5 million to the Kashmiri American Council from the Pakistani intelligence agency through the “straw donors” between 1990 and 2011, according to the indictment. Ahmad died in Pakistan in 2011.
The Kashmiri American Council’s director, Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai, also was charged with receiving funds for the organization via money transfers from the “straw donors” at Ahmad’s request, prosecutors said.
The “straw donors” were reimbursed for money transfers through funds Fai received from the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, prosecutors said.
As part of the conspiracy, Fai provided the “straw donors” letters that stated money transferred to the Kashmiri American Council was tax deductible, court papers said.
Fai pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiracy and endeavoring to impede administration of the tax laws. He was sentenced in March 2012 to two years in federal prison.
Bajwa served on Shifa International Hospital’s board of directors since 2006.
Prosecutors alleged Bajwa fraudulently claimed tax deductions for at least $230,000 in money transfers to the Pakistani hospital between 1993 and 2010, but then received partial reimbursement for the transfers.
Bajwa was also accused of fraudulently claiming tax deductions for about $590,000 that he transferred to the Kashmiri American Council between 1991 and 2011, but also had received partial reimbursements, according to the indictment. Reimbursements were made in the form of stock shares in the Pakistani hospital, according to prosecutors.
Those accusations related to the tax deductions were tied to the conspiracy charge that was dismissed, Deitch said Friday.
In March, Deitch said Bajwa’s donations and investments in Pakistan have helped in the building of hospitals that provide quality medical care that was not previously available in that country. His donations also helped create more than 400 much-needed schools for Pakistani children, Deitch said.Clicky