- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 29, 2003

A leading Muslim activist accused of attempting to smuggle cash into the United States to fund “one or more” terrorist organizations, including al Qaeda, pleaded not guilty yesterday in federal court in Virginia to charges of trying to illegally funnel money from Libya into this country.

Abdul Rahman al-Amoudi, 51, of Falls Church, founder of the American Muslim Council and the American Muslim Foundation, was ordered held without bail by U.S. District Judge Claude Hilton, who set trial for Feb. 16.

“There is a risk and danger of flight,” said Judge Hilton, citing Mr. al-Amoudi’s wealth, frequent overseas travel and his Middle East connections. The Muslim leader was arrested Sept. 28 by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and FBI agents at Washington Dulles International Airport shortly after arriving on a flight from London.

Stanley Cohen, Mr. al-Amoudi’s attorney, entered the plea for his client. He later told reporters there was “simply no evidence” of terrorism in the case, only possible violations of U.S. regulatory requirements.

But Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Ward, who is prosecuting the case, said Mr. al-Amoudi planned to funnel the money from Libya to this country through “a cluster of charities supporting designated terrorist groups like Hamas and al Qaeda.”

Mr. al-Amoudi, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Eritrea, was named last week in an 18-count indictment accusing him of engaging in illegal financial transactions with Libya, money laundering, misuse of a passport, failure to report foreign bank accounts and lying in an application to become a naturalized U.S. citizen.

An affidavit by ICE Agent Brett Gentrup said Mr. al-Amoudi attempted to smuggle $340,000 into the United States and that the cash “was intended for delivery in Damascus, Syria, to one or more of the terrorists or terrorist organizations active in Syria.”

The affidavit says Mr. al-Amoudi was “engaged in financial transactions” with Libya, which the document describes as “one of the seven state sponsors of terrorism.”

Initially he was accused of visiting Libya in violation of government-ordered sanctions and of illegally accepting $10,700 from the Libyan Mission to the United Nations.

The affidavit also says Mr. al-Amoudi told British customs authorities, who found the $340,000 Aug. 16 in London before the Muslim activist boarded a flight to Damascus, that he hoped to use the cash for the American Muslim Foundation and intended to deposit it in banks in Saudi Arabia “from which he would feed it back in smaller sums into accounts in the United States.”

But the affidavit says investigators did not believe the money was intended for the foundation, asserting that the Libyan government has used couriers for the past several years to deliver cash to support terrorist organizations.

The indictment says that from November 1995 to September 2003, Mr. al-Amoudi “devised a scheme to obtain money from Libya and other sources overseas for transmission into the United States” without attracting the attention of federal law enforcement authorities.

“The purpose of this scheme was to hide the amount of money he controlled, how and where he obtained it, and what he did with the money,” the indictment says.

Mr. al-Amoudi also has been tied by federal authorities to the SAAR Foundation, when that Saudi-based organization was targeted by a federal task force investigating Islamic-based charities in Virginia.

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