The financial middle man whose services allowed failed terrorist Faisal Shahzad to plant his dud bomb in Times Square has been sentenced to only three months probation on charges that carried a maximum 10 year sentence.
It is stunningly myopic that Judge John Keenan sided with defense attorneys Philippe Solages and Gino Giorgini who argued for zero jail time on the flimsy grounds that Long Island hawala dealer Mohammad Younis (not to be confused with international microcredit advocate and suspected embezzler Muhammad Yunus) supposedly “cooperated” with law enforcement.
But the more scandalous head-scratcher is why federal prosecutors, including the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara and Asst. Attorney John Cronan, only pushed for a six month sentence on two charges that each carried up to a five-year sentence. Mr. Bharara made the news in 2010 for dissolving a successful counterterror section of his office and merging it with a narcotics office. The non-sentence within the framework of a deal backed by prosecutors would appear to be another Bharara failure to understand that funding terrorism against civilians is no ordinary crime.
The 9/11 Commission identified hawala as a funding method for Al Qaeda leading up to the attacks on the Twin Towers and Pentagon. But unwilling to ban hawala or even to tax hawala transactions, public policy makers have been at a loss for how to tighten the screws on hawala.
And here came a case sitting on a silver platter. Mohammad Younis received $12,000 from his brother, a fellow hawaladar in Pakistan, and gave $7,000 of it to Shahzad and $5,000 to somebody else. According to Bharara, “Shahzad noted that the cash he received from Younis facilitated the attempt.” The payment, again according to Bharara and Shahzad himself, was arranged by Tehrik-e-Taliban (the Pakistani Taliban). So here in the middle of a Taliban-funded terror attack was an unlicensed hawala dealer.
This case presented a fast ball right down the middle for prosecutors: a clear-cut incident of an unlicensed hawala dealer accepting Taliban money and giving it to a jihadist for an attempted terrorist attack on the U.S. It was a golden opportunity for federal prosecutors and New York law enforcement to knock it out of the park, and demonstrate the full force of American law. They could have used the case to set the example to Muslim hawaladars operating throughout the U.S. that they will be prosecuted fully. But the prosecutors foolishly blinked.
News and law enforcement accounts are unanimous in saying that Younis was unaware that the money would be used for terrorism. Indeed! Maintaining deniability is the purpose behind hawala, and is the problem inherent to hawala in terms of terror finance! Hawala to its very core flouts modern know-your-customer regulations faced by banks and other legitimate money services businesses. Hawaladars KNOW their transactions fund illegal activity, which is precisely why they do not want to know whom nor what their transactions fund. To absolve a hawala broker who claims innocence after the fact is to fail to understand the criminally negligent foundations of hawala.
Younis will have to pay a $2,000 fine and forfeit $12,000. By comparison, a Jewish rabbi in New York convicted on unlicensed money exchange charges earlier this year (in a case that involved zero allegations of funding terrorism) was fined $36,740 and had to forfeit $367,500. Younis, whose work funded an actual terrorist attempt, will pay only about 3 percent of what Rabbi Kassin was forced to pay.
Often inaccurately described as an “Asian” invention, hawala is a Muslim money transfer system based on the statements and actions of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, documented in the Hadith.