An international arms
dealer allegedly trying to smuggle shoulder-fired missiles into the
United States was arraigned in Federal court 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
A Federal 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
down payment was supposed to take place.
Mr. Christie called the arrest an important triumph in the war on
terrorism. "There is no question that Mr. Lakhani was someone who
was sympathetic to the terrorists who were trying to do damage to
our country," said the federal prosecutor. "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."
The arrests follow an 18-month-long sting operation conducted
by the FBI 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.
"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," said
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, was arraigned
in federal hearing in New York, and ordered transfer to the federal
court in New Jersey. Officials say he is charged with money laundering.
U.S. law enforcement officials say the investigation will continue
in Britain, Russia and the United States.