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Indian businessman from UK is convicted in NJ of planning to sell airplane downing missiles to terrorists

Muslim student who went to flight school in GA arrested in UK
April 28, 2005

MIM: Lakhani's lawyer said he could find 'no compelling explanation for his actions'. Law enforcement related that he had been 'excited and enthusiastic' about the death and destruction that the weapons would cause, and talked "gleefully about bringing America to it's knees" adding that" he said these things, felt these things, and acted on these things".

Despite the fact that Lakhani was caught on videotape waxing enthusiastic about the devastation and death which the weapons would bring, his lawyer stated that ' there was no compelling evidence' for his client's actions.The best the defense could muster was a lame declaration that Lakhani 'had never done anything like this before'.

Briton found guilty of supporting terrorism

Hemant Lakhani Lakhani attempted to sell a missile to an undercover FBI agent
MIM: The 69 year old clothing salesman talked gleefully about "bringing America to it's knees"
Hermant Lekhani

Lakhani told the agent the rockets he was selling could be used to shoot down ten to 15 aeroplanes simultaneously

Briton guilty in arms deal trap set up by FBI sting


A BRITISH businessman was yesterday found guilty of attempting to provide material support to terrorists in the United States.

Hemant Lakhani, 69, from north London, was also convicted of illegal weapons brokering, two counts of money laundering and for importing merchandise into the US using false statements.

Lakhani turned to look at his wife, Kusum, in disbelief as the verdict was announced. He faces 25 years in jail.

The jury at New Jersey District Court in Newark returned its verdict after about eight hours.

Lakhani was arrested in August 2003 in an FBI sting operation after presenting a sample shoulder-fired missile to an informant posing as a member of a Somali terrorist group in a Newark hotel room.

He told the undercover agent rockets he was selling could be used to shoot down ten to 15 aircraft simultaneously on the second anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 11 September, 2001, and offered a further 50 missiles.

Henry Klingeman, Lakhani's lawyer, said the best and the worst evidence against him were his own words, captured on videotape by the FBI, which were played and replayed to the jury.

"The words he used on the tapes were the worst evidence against him. Mr Lakhani's very sad. He's an old man, his wife has been left behind," he added

Mr Klingeman had made it clear to the jury that this case was an all or nothing proposition and that Lakhani was either a victim of entrapment or guilty on all counts.

He said it was obvious that his client had enjoyed the attention and was looking to make money but it was equally clear that he had never been involved in anything like this before.

Speaking outside court, Mr Klingeman acknowledged that Lakhani had "no compelling explanation" for his actions.

He said he was disappointed but not surprised by the verdict and would decide whether or not to appeal after sentencing, which was set for 12 August - two years to the day since he was arrested.

Prosecutor Christopher Christie hailed the verdict as a triumph in the war against terrorism. "The jury has spoken and Hemant Lakhani is not a women's clothing salesman," he said.

"The evidence proved that Mr Lakhani was engaged in a scheme willingly, knowingly and anxiously to sell arms to people he thought would use them to kill innocent US citizens."

Mr Christie said Lakhani had made his intention to deal arms clear from the beginning and had been enthusiastic about the death and destruction they could cause. He, too, acknowledged that the secretly recorded FBI video tapes of the so-called sale were Lakhani's downfall.

"Mr Lakhani talked about wanting to broker 50 further missiles and talked gleefully about bringing Americans to their knees," he said.

"These were Mr Lakhani's thoughts and words. He said these things, felt these things and acted on these things.

"No-one can say New Jersey and this country is not a safer place without Hemant Lakhani trotting around the globe trying to broker arms deals," Mr Christie added.

"He is a victim of his own evil, greedy, deceitful conduct."

Indian-born Lakhani lived in Britain for 45 years and had travelled the world chasing business deals


The bogus arms deal which led to jail

Briton Hemant Lakhani has been found guilty of attempting to support terrorism, after trying to sell a shoulder-launched missile to an undercover FBI agent.

The 69-year-old, of Hendon, north London, had denied the charges, saying he was a victim of entrapment

The BBC News website looks at the background to the case.

In 2001 Hemant Lakhani, an Indian-born British businessman living in Hendon, north London, went to Dubai to look for financial backing for a 130m deal on an Indian oil-refinery project.

While he was there, a contact encouraged him to speak to a rich Saudi friend who could help.

The friend was Mohammed Habib Rehman, also known as Air Haji, an undercover US Government informant.

The pair began conversations in December 2001.

Mr Rehman told Lakhani he represented a rebel Somali liberation group and was interested in arms - in particular shoulder-fired missiles.

Lakhani, who was eager to please his new contact, said he would try to help.

He had previously made one arms deal, which was the legal sale of 11 armoured personnel carriers to the government of Angola.

Illegal deal

To make the deal for Mr Rehman, Lakhani received help from a man called Sergi in the Ukraine. Lakhani has claimed Sergi was working for Russian intelligence.

Sergi said he could supply Lakhani with Russian-made shoulder-fired missiles, called Igla.

When Lakhani told Mr Rehman he could get hold of the missiles, Mr Rehman instructed him to export the weapon to New Jersey, promising cash.

Mr Rehman said he would buy 200 weapons - a deal worth 11m, but told Lakhani to ship in one sample missile to begin with.

The two later met up at a hotel overlooking Newark airport in New Jersey. Mr Rehman explained to Lakhani that the deal was illegal.

He also told him he planned to use the missiles on the first anniversary of the 11 September attacks, and suggested the missile would be used to target a commercial aircraft.

However as time went on, Lakhani began to make remarks about the risks they were taking, saying the deal was "very dangerous" and "not very easy".

In November 2002, he told Mr Rehman: "This business is getting so dangerous. No one has the guts to do it... I won't do anything if it's risky."

Despite the risks, the plans eventually took shape, and in July 2003 Lakhani and Mr Rehman travelled to Russia, under the watch of intelligence agents, to meet with the suppliers and inspect the missile.

But unknown to Lakhani, the missile had been replaced with a replica model.

On August 12, 2003, the missile was delivered to Newark. Lakhani met Mr Rehman there to inspect the weapon, saying: "I can't believe what we have done."

After discussing payment for the remainder of the order, Mr Rehman left the room.

It was then stormed by FBI agents and customs officials.

Lakhani was charged and then placed in custody in New Jersey until his trial, which began in January 2005.


Police arrest pilot at center of terror alert

A STUDENT pilot who prompted a terror alert in the US has been arrested in the UK, Scotland Yard confirmed today.

Zayead Hajaig - a British national who studied in Atlanta, Georgia - was arrested by anti-terrorism officers at his home in Essex yesterday.

He caused an alert in the US after he allegedly tried to have his pilot rating upgraded to fly commercial planes despite not having the necessary qualifications.

Two of the September 11 hijackers trained at the same airfield.

Scotland Yard said a 35-year-old man had been arrested on suspicion of obtaining documents by deception.

Suspicions were raised over Hajaig, also known as Barry John Felton, after he took flying lessons at the Gwinnett County Airport-Briscoe Field in 2002.

Earlier this month, the FBI issued a special alert to try to trace him.

The UK authorities were alerted and Hajaig, who is described as a white British national born in Nigeria, was placed on a "no-fly" list.


FBI 'fugitive' released on bail A Briton arrested by anti-terrorism officers in Essex after triggering an FBI alert has been released on bail, Scotland Yard has said.

Zayead Christopher Hajaig, 35, was held on Wednesday on suspicion of obtaining documents by deception.

He is wanted on weapons and immigration charges in the US and is considered a fugitive by the FBI.

The US authorities began investigating Mr Hajaig after he tried to upgrade his pilot training before qualifying.

Scotland Yard confirmed Mr Hajaig was bailed on Thursday to return to the police station in mid-May.

Earlier on Thursday, a Metropolitan Police spokeswoman said: "At approximately 10am yesterday officers from the Metropolitan Anti-Terrorist Branch arrested a 35-year-old man at residential premises in Essex under the Theft Act 1968 for allegedly obtaining documents by deception".

A spokesman for the FBI in Atlanta confirmed Mr Hajaig - also known as Barry John Felton - had been arrested.


Mr Hajaig's case in the United States is being investigated by the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force.

On 21 April a US grand jury charged Mr Hajaig with three counts of being an illegal alien in possession of a weapon.

The US Attorney's Office said Mr Hajaig had fled the US after hearing inquiries were being made as to his whereabouts, and was "considered to be a fugitive".

The Atlanta Joint Terrorism Task Force issued a special alert bulletin to police and aviation authorities earlier this month.

It said Mr Hajaig "became aggressive and attempted to have the flight school accelerate his training schedule".

The FBI said UK authorities had been notified and that he had been placed on a "no-fly" list.

Mr Hajaig took flight lessons at Gwinnett County Airport-Briscoe Field in 2002.

Two of the hijackers involved in the 11 September attacks reportedly completed part of their training at the same airport.

The flying school's owner, Marcus Strickland, said Mr Hajaig was a "regular flight student with no problems" other than an expired work visa.

Terrorism in the UK:

International terrorism:


Home Office - terrorism



Muslim Community of Gloucester (Sajid Badat)

UK Home Office on terrorism

UN actions on terrorism

The war in context

Ministry of Defence

Centre for Defence Information (US)

Centre for Study of Terrorism & Political Violence

Council on Foreign Relations (US)

Counter Terrorism Page (US)

US Department of Defense

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