N.J. - A British arms dealer appeared in U.S. District
Court today, on charges that he tried to complete
the sale of a shoulder-fired missile, with the understanding
that it was going to be used to shoot down an American
commercial airliner, the U.S. Attorney's Office and
Justice Department announced today.
other defendants were arrested. Both of them helped
in a planned money transfer that was part of the transaction.
One of those two individuals arrived in the U.S. to
allegedly arrange for a $500,000 downpayment from
a government cooperating witness for 50 more shoulder-fired
Attorney Christopher J. Christie of the District in
New Jersey and FBI Director Robert Mueller and Department
of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge in Washington,
announced the filing of a criminal complaint charging
Hemant Lakhani with attempting to provide material
support to terrorists and attempting to sell arms
without a license. Lakhani, 68, of London, England,
flew from London to John F. Kennedy International
Airport on Sunday and was arrested yesterday by Special
Agents of the FBI/Newark Joint Terrorism Task Force,
as he was meeting with a government cooperating witness
to complete the sale of a single shoulder-fired surface-to-air
criminal complaint against Lakhani filed under seal
on Monday in U.S. District Court in Newark alleges
that Lakhani went to New Jersey to arrange for the
sale of at least another 50 anti-aircraft missiles
to the cooperating witness, who was posing as a representative
of a Somali terror organization.
criminal complaints were filed against Yehuda Abraham,76,
a New York City jeweler and money remitter, and Moinuddeen
Ahmed Hameed of Malaysia. Hameed arrived from Malaysia
yesterday allegedly as part of the planned sale of
another 50 missiles. Hameed was to collect an initial
payment of $500,000 from the government cooperating
witness, according to the complaint. Both men are
charged with conspiring to operate an unlicensed money
a British national born in India, and Hameed, appeared
before U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan D. Wigenton in
Newark. At the government's request, Judge Wigenton
continued the initial appearance for several days,
during which the defendants will remain in federal
custody. The third defendant, Abraham, was expected
to make an initial appearance in U.S. District Court
in Manhattan sometime today.
Attorney General Ashcroft said the investigation,
which began in the months after the Sept. 11, 2001,
terror attacks on America, also involved law enforcement
authorities in the Russian Federation, who infiltrated
Lakhani's pipeline to a weapons supplier.
investigation shows that all agencies of the federal
government and our international allies will work
together tirelessly to keep innocent people safe,"
said Ashcroft. "America is vigilant against danger.
Justice will be done."
was deadly serious business," said Christie.
"Without the very effective intervention of the
FBI - Newark, the Joint Terrorism Task Force composed
of our federal, state and local law enforcement partners
and the indispensable help of the Russian FSB, Lakhani
might well have paved the way for others do unimaginable
According to the criminal complaint, contact between
Lakhani and the cooperating witness began in December
2001, with most of the conversations spoken in Urdu
or Hindi. The following month, after the cooperating
witness said he wanted to purchase one surface-to-air
missile initially and more to follow, Lakhani represented
to the cooperating witness that he could export weapons
from sources in the former Soviet Union. At a meeting
between the two in New Jersey, Lakhani provided a
military arms brochure and business cards from individuals
with whom he had connections.
The complaint states that during a video- and audio-taped
meeting at a hotel overlooking Newark Airport in September
2002, Lakhani and the cooperating witness looked out
and gestured at departing commercial aircraft. Lakhani
allegedly said he understood the purpose of the sale
was to shoot down an aircraft and cause economic harm
to the United States - to "make one explosion
... to shake the economy."
the more than 150 other audio- or video-taped conversations
during the investigation, Lakhani allegedly spoke
approvingly of Usama bin Laden, saying bin Laden "straightened
them all out" and "did a good thing."
And, in a another conversation, Lakhani was recorded
saying, "The Americans are bastards."
stated in the complaint, the discussions continued
about importation of the missile, and on Aug. 17,
2002, Lakhani said he understood that the buyer of
the missile had wanted it for "the anniversary"
- a reference to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks
on America. Three days later, Lakhani allegedly faxed
the cooperating witness a document listing the price
for an "Igla-S portable anti-aircraft missile
complex," including a price breakdown between
the missile and its launcher. In more recorded conversations
during August 2002, Lakhani allegedly said the supplier
was concerned that the deal for just one missile was
"too risky," and that he had committed to
the supplier that there would be a purchase of at
least an additional 20 missiles.
complaint further alleges that on or about July 12,
2003, Lakhani traveled to Moscow to meet with the
suppliers and the government's cooperating witness.
At a meeting two days later, Lakhani met with the
witness and two officers of the Russian Federal Security
Service (FSB), posing as the suppliers. The FSB officers
showed Lakhani what appeared to be an actual surface-to-air
missile, which was actually an unarmed replica. In
subsequent meetings, Lakhani allegedly discussed payment
arrangements and his desire to arrange a deal for
the purchase of an additional 50 surface-to-air missiles.
The complaint alleges that during a July 18, 2003,
recorded meeting, Lakhani provided to the FSB officers
a document on corporate letterhead, stating that the
company had authorized its foreign bank to release
the payment of $70,000 to the account specified by
the FSB officers.
of the State Department's Directorate of Defense Trade
Control have advised that the surface-to-air missiles
at issue in this case - a Russian-manufactured Igla-S
portable anti-aircraft missile complex - are "foreign
defense articles" subject to their regulatory
authority. Lakhani is neither registered with the
DTCT nor licensed to engage in the business of importing
or transferring any defense articles.
charges were also filed against Yehuda Abraham, the
owner of Ambuy Gem Corp. in New York City, for allegedly
helping to arrange the delivery of a $30,000 down
payment between the cooperating witness and Lakhani.
Abraham, 75, of New York, who also owns a money remittance
business, was arrested today and charged with operating
an unlicensed money transmitting business.
penalties for the defendants:
Lakhani: providing material support to terrorists,
15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine; selling arms
without a license, 10 years and a $1 million fine.
Abraham and Hameed: conspiring to operate an unlicensed
money transmitting business, five years and a $250,000
case is being prosecuted by U.S. Attorney Christopher
J. Christie of New Jersey and Assistant U.S. Attorneys
Jeffrey Clark and Brian R. Howe. The international
investigation that led to today's charges was assisted
by law enforcement authorities in Russia, and is the
product of New Jersey's Joint Terrorism Task Force,
particularly agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation,
the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement
and the Secret Service at the Department of Homeland
Security, and the Defense Intelligence Agency.