Skip to comments.Missile fiend hero-worshipped Bin Laden
Posted on 08/13/2003 9:02:21 PM PDT by Pokey78
THE British arms dealer seized over a US terror plot hero-worshipped Osama Bin Laden.
Hemant Lakhani, 68, tried to supply missiles for a blitz on the scale of the September 11 attacks.
He spoke of a bid to shoot down a plane on the anniversary of 9/11.
Lakhani hated the US and was hell-bent on killing Americans, prosecutors said last night.
The arms dealer believed terror leader Osama Bin Laden did something right and set the Americans straight when he orchestrated the September 11 attacks.
And he was ready to help extremists unleash a new wave of terror.
The London-based dealer a Hindu obtained a Russian surface-to-air missile, thinking he was selling it to a Muslim extremist who would use it to down a US passenger jet.
He even suggested it could be used to target George Bushs presidential plane Air Force One.
But Lakhani had been rumbled. The missile he shipped from St Petersburg to Baltimore was a fake, and he was arrested this week in an amazing international sting.
An undercover Russian agent posed as a corrupt engineer to supply the missile and American agents posed as the buyers while Britains MI5 and MI6 also kept tabs on Lakhani.
Lakhani, 68 an established arms dealer who lives in Hendon, North London believed the shoulder-launched SA-18 Igla would be used in an attack on the West.
And he was intent on brokering a £3million deal to supply terrorists with a further 50 missiles.
Lakhani told undercover agents he was acting as a middle-man for a Somali terror cell that initially wanted to buy one missile, but would then order many more.
Yesterday Lakhani appeared in court just a few miles from the hotel where he was arrested in Newark, New Jersey.
He is charged with aiding terrorists and faces 15 years in prison if convicted. He is also charged with engaging in the sale of foreign defence articles, which carries a maximum of ten years jail and a £750,000 fine.
Prosecutor Christopher Christie said outside court: There is no question that Mr Lakhani was sympathetic to the beliefs of the terrorists who were trying to damage our country.
He on many occasions in recorded conversations referred to Americans as bastards and Osama Bin Laden as a hero who had done something right and set the Americans straight.
He knew full well that the arms dealing he was engaging in was an attempt to kill American citizens and to shake the stability of our economy.
This is an incredible triumph in the war against terrorism. The terrorists who threaten America lost an ally in their quest to kill our citizens.
Today is a good day. We know we are under threat, the President has made clear we are in an ongoing war against terrorism. Today the good guys won a battle in that war.
Mr Christie said Lakhani had expected to take a £310,000 down-payment for another 50 missiles after delivering the first but was seized before the money changed hands.
He said: This was a sample missile. Mr Lakhani told the co-operating witness we would have to order another 50 missiles to make the deal worthwhile. He wanted $500,000 to give as good faith to his suppliers to show that we were real customers.
Mr Lakhani proved himself willing to deal with groups he thought were terrorists and that specifically stated that they intended to use this missile for terrorist activity in the United States against commercial airliners.
Mr Lakhani knew full well what he was doing and why. He very clearly expressed his sentiments towards this country and its citizens.
Lakhani did not speak or enter a plea in court, but constantly whispered to his lawyer. He was denied bail amid fears he would flee.
His petite wife Kusum, dressed in traditional Indian sari, stared straight ahead as she sat with FBI agents in the Newark Federal Court. An Afghan accused of laundering money for the deal also appeared in court.
Lakhani is being held at a nearby prison and is due back before a judge next week.
The sting was the climax of an 18-month operation that began after Lakhani was heard boasting that he could get hold of missiles.
The Igla is one of the deadliest surface-to-air weapons in the world. It locks on and pursues its target using an infra-red system which homes in on the heat of aircraft engines.
A start-up motor fires the missile from its launch tube, then separates, leaving a rocket engine to take over. The Igla then soars through the air at up to 1.6 times the speed of sound.
When it hits the target its deep destruction warhead and fuel detonate together making aircraft either explode in mid-air or plunge to earth.
Both planes and helicopters are vulnerable to Igla attack within about three miles of take-off or landing.