Posts Tagged ‘Faisal Shahzad’

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Taliban’s Long Island hawala dealer gets off with probation

December 6, 2011

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.

Younis, the Long Island hawaladar

Centereach hawala dealer

Younis could have served as a warning to all illicit money services

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.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara

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.

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10 years after 9/11, Treasury looks at hawala

June 17, 2011

The failed Times Square bombing has prompted FinCEN to consider tightening the screws on hawala.  The shocking thing about this article from MoneyLaundering.com on June 14 is that it has taken so long for FinCEN to become concerned about hawala.  The 9/11 Commission found that hawala played a significant role in Al Qaeda’s financing, particular after the East Africa embassy bombings, but also including 9/11 itself.  We also already knew that Italian hawaladars played a role in financing the 26/11 terror attacks against Mumbai.

The sad thing is that, even though FinCEN has become more worried, the only apparent “solution” offered in this article is closer cooperation with law enforcement.  Here’s a suggestion:  outlaw hawala in the U.S., and as soon as any hawala operator is discovered, get a warrant, seize his records, cuff him, jail him, put him on trial, and bulldoze his office after his conviction.

Failed Bombing Prompted Treasury to Scrutinize Unregistered MSBs, Hawala Networks: Sources

By Brian Monroe

Last year’s failed Times Square car bombing has been the chief impetus behind a recent U.S. Treasury Department’s initiative to identify unregistered money services businesses and hawala networks, according to sources.

The department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) began more closely screening the suspicious activity reports (SARs) it receives after it was disclosed that Pakistan-born Faisal Shahzad, who attempted in May 2010 to blow up an explosive-packed Nissan in the heart of Manhattan, had received funding for the operation through hawala brokers, said an individual familiar with the matter.

After the disclosure, the bureau began more closely working with regional law enforcement officials and regulators to determine how to better identify similar brokers, known as hawaladars, said the person, who asked not to be named. In May, FinCEN asked money services businesses (MSBs) to report the names and tax identification numbers of their agents, among other data.

After the attempted bombing, FinCEN officials were “very worried” because, along with the Internal Revenue Service, the bureau is responsible for oversight and enforcement of MSBs, said the person. FinCEN officials wanted to find a way to thwart transfers similar to those received by Shahzad, who accepted $12,000 in funding via a hawaladar from co-conspirators in Pakistan.

Following Shahzad’s arrest, there is a “greater realization in law enforcement that these hawalas can be tied to some pretty serious stuff,” including terrorist financing, said Martin Ficke, a former U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agent. “These agencies have to do something to close that gap.”

The number of hawala brokers in the country remains a guess at best. While FinCEN lists more than 42,000 registered MSBs on its Web site, the number of unregistered MSBs, including hawala operations, is close to 160,000, according to a 1997 estimate by a third-party consultant commissioned by FinCEN…

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Connecting Faisal’s financial dots

September 26, 2010

When it comes to following the financial clues behind Faisal Shahzad’s failed bombing of Times Square, all the connections seem to run through Pakistan.

From the Los Angeles Times on Sept. 9:

Pakistani authorities have charged three men with terrorism-related offenses for allegedly helping failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad prepare for the attempted May 1 attack by arranging meetings with top Pakistani Taliban leaders and sending him money, a senior police official in Islamabad said Wednesday.

The three men, Shahid Hussain, Shoaib Mughal and Humbal Akhtar, are relatively young, middle-class Pakistanis who have been close friends with Shahzad for several years, said Deputy Inspector Gen. Bin Yamin. They allegedly facilitated Shahzad’s training at Taliban boot camps in Pakistan’s largely ungoverned tribal areas and arranged for him to meet with Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mahsud.

When Shahzad ran short of money in the U.S. as he prepared for the bombing attempt, the three men sent him $13,000, Yamin said.

Say, where did three young Pakistani males get $13,000 in spare change in the first place?  They must have had a larger benefactor.

Next, on Sept. 17, we have this article entitled “US man of Pak-origin accused of funding Times Square bomber,” from the Indian Express:

Mohammad Younis, an immigrant from Pakistan living in the US, has been charged for providing money to Faisal Shahzad who has pleaded guilty for trying to blow up part of Times Square in May this year.

Younis, who lives in Long Island, allegedly gave thousands of dollars to Shahzad as part of a “hawala” money transfer from Pakistan, which has come under the spotlight in recent years for being used to funnel money to extremist groups.

However, 44-year-old Younis was unaware that money would be used in a terror plot, which had been hatched while Shahzad was training with the Taliban in Pakistan, according to the prosecution.

Younis, who has been charged for operating an unlicensed money transfer business and conspiracy, pleaded not guilty and could be sentenced up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

With legal prosecutions of Faisal’s financiers pointing back to Pakistan, one suspects that Pakistan’s intelligence service, the ISI, was aware of these financial transactions.  Or was the ISI the source of the $13,000 that Shahzad’s “friends” transferred to him?

Earlier this summer, L.A. writer Karen Fish argued that U.S. tax dollars ultimately funded Faisal Shahzad’s failed Time Square bombing through Pakistan and the ISI.  We don’t have rock solid proof, but it’s a perfectly plausible argument.

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CAIR lies about hawala

August 20, 2010

After it became clear that the would-be Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad used hawala to finance his failed attack, the English-language Russian news channel RT interviewed Nihad Awad from the Council on American-Islamic Relations about hawala.

When asked about the terrorist and criminal uses of hawala, Awad made the wildly fanciful statement that “the 9/11 Commission has exonerated the hawala system…”

Actually, Mr. Awad, the staff of the 9/11 Commission found just the opposite in their monograph on terrorist financing as follows:

Al Qaeda moved much of its money by hawala before 9/11. In some ways, al Qaeda had no choice after its move to Afghanistan in 1996; the banking system there was antiquated and undependable. Hawala became particularly important after the August 1998 East Africa bombings increased worldwide scrutiny of the formal financial system. Bin Ladin turned to an established hawala network operating in Pakistan, in Dubai, and throughout the Middle East to transfer funds efficiently. Hawalas were attractive to al Qaeda because they, unlike formal financial institutions, were not subject to potential government oversight and did not keep detailed records in standard form. Although hawaladars do keep ledgers, their records are often written in idiosyncratic shorthand and maintained only briefly. Al Qaeda used about a dozen trusted hawaladars, who almost certainly knew of the source and purpose of the money. Al Qaeda also used both unwitting hawaladars and hawaladars who probably strongly suspected that they were dealing with al Qaeda but were nevertheless willing to deal with anyone.

The full interview, which includes a ridiculous comparison between Wall Street and hawala, and a series of softball questions for Awad, is available here.  It’s quite telling that Russian news producers regard Awad, the man behind CAIR’s fundraising efforts, as hawala expert, isn’t it?

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Congressional probe of hawala upcoming?

May 27, 2010

It’s encouraging that politicians (even a Democrat in this case!) are sounding the alarm about Islamic hawala.  But if Congress just issues another boilerplate government study about how “the majority” of hawala transfers are for “good purposes” and are more “efficient” than our Western banking system, the report won’t be worth the paper it’s printed on.

From the Boston Herald on May 22:

U.S. Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, (D-South Boston) wants a congressional probe of informal Islamic banking networks as authorities investigate whether three New England detainees were inadvertantly involved in financing the botched Times Square bombing.

Lynch’s push comes as law enforcement officials told The Associated Press that terror suspect Faisal Shahzad confessed to interrogators he received financing from the Pakistani Taliban through the informal “halawa” system used by Muslim to transfer funds globally.

But, one official told The Associated Press, “there’s a belief that no one in the U.S. who got him the funds was aware of what they were for.” Shahzad, a Pakistani-American, was the only person in the United States who was “operational” in the clumsy May 1 Times Square plot, the official said.

Lynch said, “The recent attempted bombing in Times Square only underscores the need to redouble our efforts to combat international terrorist financing. Informal financing networks can be insidious and difficult to track.”

Lynch and U.S. Rep. Mike Castle (D-Delaware) wrote to Financial Services Committee Chair Rep. Barney Frank (D-Newton) this week urging hearings.

Meanwhile, Pakistan General Consul Barry Hoffman, who yesterday visited one of three Pakistani New England detainees, Mohammad Rahman of South Portland, at an immigration facility in Maine, described him as a mild-mannered techie who didn’t espouse radical Islamic views.

“He comes from a good family in Karachi . . . he does not seem like a radical,” Hoffman said. “He’s being treated well. I spoke to a reverend and he’s arranging to get him a Koran and prayer rug”…

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Worrying about couriering

May 13, 2010

Last Sunday’s talk shows were sprinkled with statements from Obama administration officials that  Faisal Shahzad’s Times Square car bomb was funded by the Pakistani Taliban.  Did Shahzad pick up the money on one of his many visits to Pakistan, was a courier involved, or both?

From CBN on May 7:

Investigators are looking for a second suspect in the failed terror attack in New York City’s Times Square.

Police said a money courier helped funnel cash from overseas to finance Faisal Shazhad’s [sic] attempt to blow up a car in the heart of New York last weekend.

Investigators have the name of the courier who they believe helped pay for the used SUV and other materials used to rig the car.

They are also looking into possible financing of the plot by foreign groups.

“We are directly looking at who did he have contact with while in Pakistan, what did he do, who is supporting him and why,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said.

On Thursday, a spokesman for the Pakistan Taliban said the group had nothing to do with the attempted bombing, but added that “such attacks are welcome.”

Meanwhile, authorities said Shazhad has admitted to the attempted bombing and is cooperating with the investigation.

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