Thursday, September 16, 2010

Terrorism: Man charged in hawala activity that funded Times Square bombing attempt.

Source: United States Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York

PREET BHARARA, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, JANICE K. FEDARCYK, the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI"), and RAYMOND W. KELLY, the Police Commissioner of the City of New York ("NYPD"), announced today the filing of an indictment charging MOHAMMAD YOUNIS, 44, of Long Island, New York, with operating an unlicensed money transfer business between the United States and Pakistan. One of the money transfers allegedly facilitated the May 1, 2010, attempted car bombing in New York City's Times Square. There are no allegations, however, that YOUNIS was aware of the intended use of the funds.

YOUNIS was arrested this morning by agents of the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force ("JTTF") at his Long Island residence, and is expected to be arraigned in Manhattan federal court later today.

According to the Indictment unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:

From January to May 2010, YOUNIS provided money transmitting services to individuals in the New York City area by assisting in the operation of a "hawala," a type of informal value transfer system in which money does not physically cross international boundaries through the banking system. In the hawala system, funds are transferred by customers to a hawala operator, or "hawaladar," in one country, and corresponding funds, less any fees, are disbursed to recipients in another country by hawaladar associates on that end.

On April 10, 2010, YOUNIS engaged in two separate hawala transactions with customers who traveled from Connecticut and New Jersey to meet with him in Long Island. In each of the transactions, YOUNIS provided thousands of dollars in cash to the individuals at the direction of a co-conspirator in Pakistan, but without knowledge of how the customers were planning to use the funds. At no time did YOUNIS have the license to operate a money transmitting business from either state or federal authorities.

One of the individuals to whom YOUNIS provided money was FAISAL SHAHZAD, who, on June 21, 2010, pled guilty to a tencount indictment charging him with crimes relating to his attempt to detonate a car bomb in Times Square on May 1, 2010. During the course of his plea allocution, SHAHZAD acknowledged receiving a cash payment in April 2010 in the United States to fund his preparations for the May 1, 2010, attempted bombing. According to SHAHZAD, the April cash payment was arranged in Pakistan by associates of the Tehrik-e-Taliban, the militant extremist group based in Pakistan that trained Shahzad to make and use explosive devices.

YOUNIS is charged with conducting an unlicensed money transmitting business and conspiracy to conduct an unlicensed money transmitting business. If convicted, YOUNIS faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison on each of the charges.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney PREET BHARARA stated: "By engaging in the alleged conduct, Mohammad Younis unwittingly funded a terror plot that, if successful, would have caused mass casualties in New York City. These charges remind us how international terrorists use the cover of informal money transfer systems to avoid detection and to inflict catastrophic harm."

FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge JANICE K. FEDARCYK said: "While the investigation of Faisal Shahzad wrapped up quickly, the FBI will leave no stone unturned. The FBI JTTF determined that Mohammad Younis transferred money between the United States and Pakistan illegally, using the hawala system. These funds were used, without Younis's knowledge, in furtherance of Shahzad’s Times Square terrorist attack. The FBI and our partners will continue to investigate matters of this type to protect the United States."

NYPD Commissioner RAYMOND W. KELLY said: "I want to commend U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and his assistants for working closely with the NYPD and FBI to secure Mohammad Younis’s indictment and arrest. By providing "hawala" money transmitting services to terrorist Faisal Shahzad, Mohammad Younis, albeit unwittingly, gave Shahzad the access to cash needed to facilitate his attempted car bombing in Times Square."

Mr. BHARARA praised the investigative efforts of the JTTF in New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, especially those JTTF members from the FBI and the NYPD. He also expressed his gratitude to the trial attorneys with the U.S. Department of Justice's National Security Division.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys JEFFREY BROWN, BRENDAN R. MCGUIRE, RANDALL W. JACKSON, and JOHN P. CRONAN of the Office's Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit are in charge of the prosecution.

The charges and allegations contained in the Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.