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SLUG: 2-306445 Missile Smuggle/ Arraign
DATE:
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE=8/13/03

TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT

TITLE=MISSILE SMUGGLE/ ARRAIGNMENT (L-O)

NUMBER=2-306445

BYLINE=BARBARA SCHOETZAU

DATELINE=NEW YORK

CONTENT=

VOICED AT:

INTRO: An international arms dealer allegedly trying to smuggle shoulder-fired missiles into the United States was arraigned in Federal court today (Wednesday) in Newark, New Jersey. Federal officials say Hemant Lakhani believed he was dealing with a terrorist group that intended to shoot down an American commercial airliner. Correspondent Barbara Schoetzau has the details

TEXT: A Federal court judge ordered Mr. Lakhani, a British national of Indian descent, held without bail until a custody hearing next week. He is charged with aiding terrorists by attempting to import a shoulder-fired missile into the United States for sale to a terrorist group.

In order to complete the undercover operation, U-S attorney Christopher Christie says a disabled missile -- a dud -- was allowed into the United States as a sample. He says Mr. Lakhani told witness that they should order another 50 missiles to make the deal worthwhile. Mr. Lakhani and two other men were arrested Tuesday when an initial downpayment was supposed to take place.

Mr. Christie calls the arrest an important triumph in the war on terrorism

/// CHRISTIE ACT ///

There is no question that Mr. Lakhani was someone who was sympathetic to the terrorists who were trying to do damage to our country. He referred to Americans as bastards, to Osama bin Laden as a hero and who knew full well that the arms dealing was to kill American citizens and to try to shake the stability of our American economy.

/// END ACT ///

Th arrests follow an 18-month long sting operation conducted by the F-B-I and British and Russian agents. Mr. Christie had particular praise for the Russians who were able to identify someone who had acquired a surface-to-air weapon in Russia and was trying to sell it abroad.

/// SECOND CHRISTIE ACT ///

This could not have been accomplished without the help of the Russian government which played an indispensable role in making sure that the plans of these terrorists were never followed through.

/// END ACT ///

A second defendant, Moinuddeen Ahmed Hameed, is also being held without bail until a hearing next week. He is charged with conspiring to operate an unlicensed money-transfer business. Officials say he arrived from Malaysia earlier this week as part of the larger plot to bring in another 50 missiles.

A third man, Yehuda Abraham, a New York jeweler, is scheduled to appear in court in New York later in the day. Officials say he is linked to money laundering.

U-S law enforcement officials say the investigation will continue in Britain, Russia and the United States. (Signed)

NEB/NY/BJS/MEM/FC



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