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Maryland Man Sentenced for Aiding Al Qaeda

Posted: November 11, 2008

A Pakistani national has been sentenced to over 9 years in prison for proving money to people he believed were Al Qaeda militants and for money laundering through an informal money transfer system that avoids financial institutions.


Saifullah Anjum Ranjha, 45, who was born in Pakistan and became a U.S. resident in 1997, was sentenced to 110 months in prison in a Baltimore federal court on November 4, 2008.  He pleaded guilty in August 2008 to concealing terrorist financing and conspiracy to launder money.


In 2003, an undercover informant approached Ranjha and led him to believe that he was involved in drug trafficking, smuggling counterfeit cigarettes and weapons, and providing assistance and money to Al Qaeda.  At the time, Ranjha was running a money-remittance business in Washington D.C. called Hamza, Inc.  Ranjha agreed to use his business to transfer funds abroad, with the belief that this money would be used to support terrorist and other illegal activities, according to his plea agreement.


In total, from October 2003 to September 2007, the undercover informant gave Ranjha $2.2 million in what he believed were illegal funds to launder abroad.  Ranjha made a total of 21 transactions in amounts ranging from $13,000 to $300,000, according to court documents.  In addition, he kept a 5% commission on the money for himself.


Ranjha, who has homes in Washington, D.C. and Laurel, Maryland, was able to launder the money using the hawala system, which legally transfers money across borders using a network of individuals instead of banks. Criminals looking to move money have increasingly abused this system, according to law enforcement officials.


Ranjha was indicted with 38 other individuals after a four-year global sting dubbed “Operation Cash-Out,” but he was the only individual accused of having knowledge that Al Qaeda would use the money.

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