Cigarette-smuggling ring investigated for terror ties

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A $55 million cigarette-smuggling ring that cheated several East Coast states out of sales tax dollars could be tied to terrorist groups, authorities said.

They made the claims during Thursday’s indictment of 16 Palestinian men — some of whom have known ties to convicted terrorists, CNN reported. The cigarette-smuggling operation ran through New York, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and New Jersey.

The funds from the operation haven’t all been tracked. But investigations of similar scams have found that the money was often sent to terrorist groups, including Hamas and Hezbollah, New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said, in CNN.

The current case, in fact, actually stemmed from New York’s ongoing watch for terrorism, he said.

“We discovered that individuals who were on our radar for links to known terrorists were engaged in a massive raid on the New York Treasury in the form of cigarette-tax avoidance,” Mr. Kelly said, in the CNN report. “One of the suspects had financial ties to Omar Abdel-Rahman, the blind cleric serving a life sentence for a conspiracy to blow up New York City landmarks.”

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said investigators are still tracing the “astounding profits” from the operation and uncovering any ties to terrorism groups, CNN reported.

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