April 1, 2004
Diamantaire Pleads Guilty in Terror Sting Case
Yehuda Abraham, a New York City diamantaire, pleaded guilty this week for his part in the unlicensed transfer of funds used as a down-payment toward the purchase of an anti-aircraft missile. Abraham admitted he was prepared to accept and continue future fund transfers with the same contacts, which would have been worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Abraham denies knowing how the funds were to be used.
Abraham faces a $250,000 fine, CNN reports, as well as a maximum five-year prison term. Abraham, president of Ambuy Gem Corp., is 76 years old. Following an FBI sting operation, Abraham was arrested Aug. 12, 2003 with Moinuddeen Ahmed Hameed, an Indian national, and Hemant Lakhani, an Indian born British citizen.
Lakhani, 68, reportedly told investigators the shoulder-fired, surface-to-air missiles, to be purchased from a Russian contact and brought into the U.S., could be used in terrorist attacks at locations around the country. He estimated more than a dozen commercial airlines could be downed simultaneously. Lakhani reportedly waived his Miranda rights upon his arrest and immediately confessed, though his lawyers argue Lakhani, a Hindu, has no ties to terrorist groups and was simply lured into the scheme because of the financial prospects. If convicted, Lakhani faces a 25-year prison term.
However, Lakhani is reportedly caught on tape boasting about his ties to a Somali terrorist group seeking a jihad against the U.S. In the FBI sting, agents and willing witnesses are said to have posed as Somali buyers. Russian and British agents also participated in the operation. In the initial transaction, Lakhani's first imported missile was a decoy that did not work.
by Robert Weldon, G.G.