HarpBlaster.com News Wire
BALTIMORE – A federal judge sentenced 45-year-old Saifullah Anjum Ranjha, a Pakistani national residing in Washington and Maryland to 110 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for conspiring to launder money and for concealing terrorist financing.
U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis also signed a preliminary order forfeiting $2,208,000 of 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,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. “Identifying hawala networks that violate the law often requires the cooperation of international authorities.”
According to his guilty plea, Ranjha was born in Pakistan and became a lawful permanent resident of the United States in September 1997. He operated a money remitter business in the District of Columbia known as Hamza, Inc., the feds said.
A cooperating witness, acting at the direction of law enforcement, held himself out to 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, according to the feds.
From October 2003 to September 19, 2007, the cooperating witness gave Ranjha and his associates a total of $2,208,000 in government funds in order to transfer the monies abroad through an informal money transfer system called a “hawala,” using a network of persons and/or businesses to transfer money across domestic and international borders without reliance upon conventional banking systems and regulations, according to the feds. The cooperating witness represented that the monies were the proceeds of, and related to, his purported illegal activities and Ranjha laundered these funds believing they were to be used to support those activities.
Ranjha was the primary point of contact for the cooperating witness and received the bulk of the monies from the cooperating witness, for a total of 21 hawala transactions in amounts ranging from $13,000 to $300,000. Most of the monies were turned over to Ranjha in locations in Maryland, the feds said.
On a few occasions the cooperating witness met Ranjha and other co-conspirators at Hamza, Inc. to provide monies for a particular hawala transfer. Ranjha arranged with his associates for the equivalent amount of monies, minus commissions, to be delivered to the cooperating witness, his third party designee, or a designated bank account in Canada, England, Spain, Pakistan, Japan and Australia. Ranjha kept a commission of approximately five percent of the amount of currency sought to be transferred on each occasion.
Other conspirators involved in a particular transaction retained an additional commission of between three to five percent of the transaction amount. All the funds transferred abroad were picked up by cooperating individuals and returned to the Government.