- Olson was charged in federal court with violating a restriction on lobbying for a foreign country.
- He was first asked to help Qatar lobby Washington to allow US pre-clearance at Doha airport.
- A court filing said Olson pleaded guilty to the offenses, with the case sent from California to Washington.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Former U.S. ambassador Richard Olson has pleaded guilty to unlawful lobbying for Qatar and accepting a lavish trip while sent to Pakistan, court documents show.
Olson, who also served as ambassador to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, was charged in federal court with violating a restriction on lobbying for a foreign country within a year of his departure.
According to a criminal complaint, Olson, then still ambassador to Islamabad, met in Los Angeles in 2015 with a Pakistani American who offered to work for an associate from Bahrain.
The Pakistani American, who has not been identified, quickly arranged a trip to London to discuss the cooperation, as Olson did not disclose the $19,000 he had been provided with in first-class airfare, a stay at a luxury hotel and dinner, prosecutors said.
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The businessman offered Olson a one-year contract worth $300,000 after he ended his diplomatic career, according to the complaint.
Olson was first asked to help Qatar lobby Washington to allow US pre-clearance at Doha airport, a move that would facilitate lucrative connections with the United States.
The former ambassador was then asked to help Qatar as it faced a blockade by neighbors Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
A Qatari government official, in turn, wired $5.8 million to the Pakistani American who had approached Olson, according to the complaint.
The complaint quoted Olson acknowledging that he was aware of the ethical restrictions, saying he could not directly approach the US ambassador to Qatar.
A court filing said Olson pleaded guilty to the offenses, with the case sent from California to Washington.
His file was dated April 7. It was first reported by news site Axios.
Since retiring from the foreign service, Olson – known as Rick – has often commentated on events in Pakistan and Afghanistan.