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Fundraiser pleads guilty to sending money to Iraq during Saddam’s time

December 17, 2009 Leave a comment

 JEFFERSON CITY, Missouri (Press Release) – Matt J. Whitworth, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Columbia, Missouri, man pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday to illegally transferring funds to Iraq in violation of federal sanctions.

Ahmad Mustafa, 55, of Columbia, a citizen of Iraq and a lawful permanent resident alien of the United States, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Nanette K. Laughrey Wednesday afternoon to the charge contained in a Jan. 16, 2008, federal indictment. That indictment charges a charitable organization and six individuals, including a former member of the United States House of Representatives, with violating various laws, including federal economic sanctions, money laundering, theft of public money, impairing and impeding the Internal Revenue Service, prohibited transactions with a specially designated global terrorist, conspiracy, and obstruction of justice.

 “Today’s conviction underscores the commitment by the Department of Justice to uphold economic sanctions imposed in accordance with the President’s emergency powers,” Whitworth said. “As a matter of national security, we take seriously any violation of these federal sanctions and will prosecute those who engage in this illegal conduct.”

Mustafa worked as a fund-raiser for Islamic American Relief Agency (IARA), an Islamic charitable organization that was headquartered in Columbia, Mo. (formerly known as the Islamic African Relief Agency-USA). IARA was officially formed in 1985 and closed in October 2004, after being identified by the U.S. Treasury Department as a specially designated global terrorist organization.

On behalf of IARA, Mustafa traveled throughout the United States soliciting charitable contributions. Mustafa concentrated his efforts in raising funds for use in Iraq. Co-defendants then transferred funds to Iraq, the plea agreement says, with the assistance of a Jordanian identified by the U.S. Treasury Department as a specially designated global terrorist.

Further, in 1999, 2000 and 2001, Mustafa traveled to Iraq on IARA business. In early 2001, he visited cities throughout Northern Iraq for several weeks and met with numerous officials to discuss the process of opening an IARA office in Iraq. Among the officials with whom Mustafa met was Hushyar Zibari, who was at the time a leader in the Patriotic Democratic Party of Kurdistan and is currently the foreign minister of Iraq. Mustafa also looked to find a building suitable for an IARA office in the Kurdish provinces of Iraq.

Under the authority granted by the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, President George H.W. Bush issued an executive order on Aug. 2, 1990, which declared a national emergency with respect to Iraq. The Secretary of Treasury issued the Iraqi Sanctions Regulations, which prohibited unauthorized travel to Iraq and unauthorized transfer of money or goods to Iraq by U.S. persons, including lawful permanent resident aliens. Neither IARA nor Mustafa ever received authority from the United States government to travel to Iraq for any purpose, nor to transfer money to Iraq for any purpose.

By pleading guilty today, Mustafa acknowledges that his actions raising funds for Iraq and traveling to Iraq as a representative of IARA, violated the federal sanctions that were then in place, and that IARA had no permission to engage in such activities. Further, on several occasions beginning in 1998, Mustafa arranged to have money sent to his family in Iraq. Mustafa knew that he did not have permission from the United States government to send funds to Iraq for personal reasons, and that his doing so would violate the law.

The factual basis in the plea agreement states that Mustafa did not know IARA had no permission to do business in Iraq. Mustafa learned of this when, after being interviewed by federal agents, he confronted a co-defendant who for the first time admitted to him that IARA had no license to do business in Iraq. Under the terms of Wednesday’s plea agreement, the United States agrees that Mustafa’s criminal offense is limited to making arrangements with others to deliver money to his family in Iraq without a license or permission, rather than his fund-raising activities and participation in IARA business in the United States and Iraq.

 Under federal statutes, Mustafa is subject to a sentence of up to five years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $250,000. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Anthony P. Gonzalez and Steven M. Mohlhenrich from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Missouri, in conjunction with Trial Attorneys Corey J. Smith from the Tax Division of the U.S. Department of Justice and Joseph Moreno from the National Security Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, IRS-Criminal Investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and U.S. AID-Office of Inspector General.

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Preceding provided by the U.S. Justice Department

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