Skip to comments.Orthodox Jewish Dealer Is Said to Aid Scheme on Terrorist Funds
Posted on 08/14/2003 2:21:24 AM PDT by the_greatest_country_ever
Orthodox Jewish Gem Dealer Is Said to Aid Scheme on Terrorist Funds
Yehuda Abraham is a slight, stooped 76-year-old gem dealer, with a house in Queens, an office in New York's diamond district and shops around the world.
One night last October, prosecutors say, a client entered Mr. Abraham's 12th-floor Midtown office and handed him $30,000 in hundred dollar bills, an odd, if believable transaction in the world of international gem dealers.
Mr. Abraham, by the government's account, counted out every note, then gave the client his business card. But this was not a jewelry sale, prosecutors allege. It was a secretive deal, with a code number and a cash commission, in which Mr. Abraham agreed to transfer the client's money to a bank account in Europe, out of the sight of federal regulators.
That transaction, if it occurred as federal prosecutors say, has landed Mr. Abraham, an immigrant who came to America nearly half a century ago, in the middle of an international dragnet that prosecutors said took into custody a dangerous arms dealer and his accomplices who were willing to bring missiles into the United States to shoot down passenger jetliners.
Prosecutors said in federal court yesterday that Mr. Abraham was the money man, a shadowy figure who facilitated the work of terrorists by giving them the means to finance their actions the purchase of the missiles through an informal money transfer system, known as hawala, which is common in the Middle East and a preferred method of finance for terrorists.
Mr. Abraham walked slowly into a federal courtroom in Manhattan yesterday, a curious figure described by some as an honest businessman and prominent member of the Jewish community in Rego Park. His rabbi showed up to offer moral support, and his brothers and sisters and children filled two aisles in the courtroom, as Mr. Abraham's lawyer, Larry Krantz, insisted this was a misunderstanding.
"I think there is a misconception to his role in this case," Mr. Krantz said.
Mr. Abraham, president of Ambuy Gem Corp., was arrested Tuesday by federal agents along with two other men Hemant Lakhani, a British citizen, and Moinudden Ahmed Hameed, of Malaysia.
Mr. Lakhani has been identified by prosecutors as an international arms dealer and charged with providing material support to terrorists as well as selling arms without a license. Prosecutors said he was trying to peddle shoulder-launch missiles to terrorists. Despite the prosecutors' claim that Mr. Abraham and Mr. Hameed aided Mr. Lakhani's terrorist dealings, the two have been charged only with conspiring to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business, a charge that at the most could mean five years in prison.
"Yes, this elderly gentleman in poor health significantly helped broker the sale of a surface to air missile," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Purpura as he asked a judge to hold Mr. Abraham without bail.
But Federal Magistrate Judge Andrew J. Peck was not persuaded.
"I fail to see any allegation that could be read fairly proving or alleging that Mr. Abraham was providing money for weapons as opposed to any other black-market activity," Judge Peck said. He set bond and conditions of release pending trial, but stayed his decision until Mr. Abraham appears in court in Newark today.
Mr. Abraham has lived and worked for the last 40 years as a New York gem dealer, a career that has taken him as far away as Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia. Yesterday, men who worked with him for years on West 47th Street described him as a grandfather, an observant Jew and a well-known proprietor. Their reaction was one of disbelief.
"For a Jew to do something like that, I cannot believe it or understand it," said a 49-year-old jewelry wholesaler whose shop is on 47th Street. "He's a prominent member of our community. To do something like that is crazy."
The world of the diamond district, though, is a cash-rich one, where unset gems must often be purchased in cash, and where wealthy customers will often pay in bundles of bills. A law enforcement official said yesterday that behind the bustling facade of the diamond district is a nebulous world of murky financial transactions where federal agents have long focused on money laundering and other crimes.
Gem merchants acknowledged yesterday that large amounts of cash flow across international borders every day, but insisted that it is done in legal and documented ways. "This business is very sensitive. People are very careful," the jewelry wholesaler said.
Mr. Abraham's relatives appeared stunned and angry as they left the court yesterday. They refused to comment, and the lawyer, Mr. Krantz, also refused to discuss Mr. Abraham's life, his work or the charges against him. In court, Mr. Krantz and the prosecutors described Mr. Abraham as a wealthy and successful man with more than $1 million equity in his home and shops in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
But in court papers, prosecutors painted a more sinister picture of Mr. Abraham. The papers suggest that he was also involved in the hawala cash transfer system for some time and that he had a good reputation among those who used it.
In 2002, the prosecutors said, Mr. Lakhani, interested in proving his good faith with missile dealers overseas, enlisted Mr. Abraham to send $30,000 to a bank in Europe. He was described, in tape-recorded conversations with other participants, as trustworthy and well known. To ensure security of the deal, there would be a code. The person posing as a buyer of missiles actually a government co-operator was given the serial number of a one dollar bill. Later, the authorities say, after Mr. Abraham counted out the $100 bills in his office, he reached into his pocket and turned over a dollar bill with the exact serial number. The deal was complete, except for Mr. Abraham's fee of $1,500, prosecutors said.
This story is most perplexing.
God Damn It! Don't we Jews have enough enemies? We've got to have this miserable traitorous scumbag as a key player in this unspeakably heinous act, (a highly respected member of he Orthodox Jewish community yet!) involved with the lowest forms of life, and for what? a $1500 commision????
Well, please allow me to give that other famous Jew spy, Johnathan Pollard credit here. A least he spied on our country based on his convoluted, misguided set of principles and conscience, in addition to the several million dollars he received from the Israeli government.
And what's the damn story with the charges?? The DA has been able to come up with ONLY this one pathetically measly charge that carries with a maximum five year penalty????
And what the hell is it with the damn Judge and his cockamamie comment in giving this scum bail?
And despite all the highly charged talk of hatred and discrimination against Muslims post-911 and how they're being singled out simply based on their religion (like Mike Hawash), I would definitely NOT put it past his attorney from using "Anti-Semitism" as the basis for the government charge against this putrid traitorous rat. LOL!
They are claiming this wasn't that serious....like it isn't a big deal.
ABC News (thread on FR) has portrayed the story up as a sting operation and a set up of a basically innocent man.
Sorry. No pass here. If he did as he is alleged to have done, he broke a bunch of laws on an international scale. That he did not ask what the money was for doesn't excuse him morally. Plausible deniability is an ignorant legal custom.
Legally? No. Morally? You bet.
As to the coverage: dog bites man, man bites dog. There's your "whatever".
He had to know he was transacting with a Muslim. That's enough for me. Fry his sorry traitorous back end.
The situation here (I don't know if you're in this category) is that every time a Muslim does something that supports terrorism, many of those who are pro-Israel want to put them all in jail, call off all negotiations until the Palestinian government is able to stop all violence, and destroy all things Muslim.
When a Jewish person is found somehow complicit in terrorism, it's a double standard. You defend him, don't look for any connections to Israel, and refuse to recognize that maybe, just maybe, there are some Jewish people who have contributed to the level of violence.
There was so much talk after 911 about Jewish involvement. This is bound to bring that discussion up again. I hope those who support Israel also support an honest investigation if this leads anywhere like that.
Do you know he didn't? Do you suppose this is the first time he engaged in this "alleged" practice? Is he a personal friend?
You're letting your relationship with this man taint your thinking, in my opinion.