Richard Olson, the former US ambassador to Pakistan, will face a guilty plea for assisting Qatar

A former top-ranking State Department official is set to plead guilty for improperly helping a wealthy Gulf country try to influence US policy and not disclosing on a government ethics form gifts he received from a disgraced political fundraiser, an American wire service reported.

According to court documents filed earlier this month, Richard G. Olson, the State Department’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan at the end of the Obama administration, provided Qatar with “aid and advice” on lobbying activities in violation of a “revolving door” prohibition against such behaviour for one year after leaving public service. Olson, who also served as US ambassador to Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates, said he wants to plead guilty in a signed declaration earlier this month. It’s unknown whether he’s assisting with any other investigations.

The case is one of the Justice Department’s most high-profile initiatives in recent years to combat unregistered or illegal influence programmes funded by foreign governments aimed at influencing US policy.

Olson also failed to declare certain financial benefits he received from a California businessman named Imaad Zuberi while at the State Department, according to US authorities. Zuberi, who was formerly a significant political donor, is now serving a 12-year term for illegally funnelling campaign money to politicians in both major parties and then peddling the ensuing influence to foreign countries. Although the new court records do not include Zuberi’s name, the US-based wire agency was able to identify him based on prior court filings and letters from a Zuberi representative.