Pakistani Convicted of Illegal Money Transfer
Washington, DC: A Pakistani national has been sentenced by an American court to 110 months in prison for using the hawala system of transferring money from the United States to Pakistan.
A judge in Baltimore sentenced Saifullah Anjum Ranjha to 110 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for using the illegal channel of transferring money to Pakistan and other locations.
US officials say that the convict Mr Ranjha, 45, had links to hawala operators in Pakistan, including some major Pakistani firms involved in both legal and illegal money transfers.
Judge Marvin J. Garbis sentenced Mr Ranjha for conspiring to launder money and for concealing terrorist financing.
US Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein said Judge Garbis also signed a preliminary order forfeiting $2.208 million of Mr Ranjha’s assets.
“The hawala system can be used by criminals to launder money without using financial institutions, by giving the money to a person in the United States and picking it up in a foreign country,” the attorney said. “Identifying hawala networks that violate the law often requires the cooperation of international authorities.”
Scot R. Rittenberg, an acting special agent of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said the use of the hawala system to move illicit funds became increasingly attractive to terrorist and other criminal organizations after 9/11 as other options closed.
“We will continue to work jointly with our domestic and foreign law enforcement partners to investigate the movement of illicit funds via the hawala system,” he said.
C. Andre’ Martin, an agent for the US Internal Revenue Service, said the United States was working with law-enforcement agencies in countries like Pakistan to “effectively” eradicate the hawala system.
According to his guilty plea, Mr Ranjha operated a money remitter business in Washington known as Hamza, Inc.
A cooperating witness, acting at the direction of law-enforcement personnel, held himself out to Mr Ranjha and his associates to be involved in large-scale international drug trafficking, international smuggling of counterfeit cigarettes and weapons. He also represented that he was providing assistance and financing to members of Al Qaeda and its affiliated organizations and their operatives.
From October 2003 to September 19, 2007, the cooperating witness gave Mr Ranjha and his associates a total of $2.208 million in government funds in order to transfer the money abroad through the “hawala” system, using a network of persons and/or businesses to transfer money across domestic and international borders without reliance upon conventional banking systems and regulations.