- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 8, 2003

DETROIT, Jan. 8 (UPI) — Six men Wednesday faced possible new charges for illegally sending as much as $50 million a year to Yemen.

The U.S. attorney's office Tuesday dismissed charges filed last month in the U.S. Customs Service's Operation Green Quest investigation. Investigators said, however, evidence gathered based on the original charges is being re-examined and new criminal charges were likely.

A nine-month investigation ended Dec. 18 with raids on facilities in Detroit and Dearborn, Mich. The six — Gamil Manea Ahmed Al-Najar, 26; David Nasser Ali, 40; Foiad Hussain Mohamed, 25, Mohammad Aidaros Abdulla, 62; Abdulla Hassan Mohamed, 31; and Hussein Ahmed Mohamed, 65 — were charged with violating the Patriot Act by transferring money without a proper license.

Federal investigators said a confidential informant secretly taped the men accepting money for transfer to Yemen and some of those accused reportedly admitted violating federal rules. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Cares, head of the Anti-Terrorism Task Force in Detroit, said the six are not suspected of being engaged in any terrorist plot.

Arab-Americans have defended the six, saying they were just engaging in the decades-old system of "hawala," which immigrants use to send money home.

Richard Hoglund, special agent in charge of the U.S. Customs Office of Investigations in Detroit, indicated the investigation is continuing.

The federal government has said it wants to stop the flow of money to terrorist organizations and has conducted several "hawala" raids across the country.

"The Patriot Act did not say that the 'hawala' system is illegal," Jim Dinkins, assistant special agent in charge of the U.S. Customs Service investigation, told the Detroit Free Press. "We're saying that you have to be licensed and maintain records … so there's a system for tracking and regulating those funds. We have to be sure this isn't being done for criminal purposes."

However, Ali Dagher, an attorney for one of the six, said the government action is just alienating Arab-Americans at a time when it needs their cooperation.

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