Thursday, July 8, 2004

DALLAS — A federal jury yesterday found five Palestinian brothers guilty of laundering money and shipping computer equipment to Middle East countries that sponsor terrorism.

The Elashi brothers were each tried on 23 counts — including conspiracy, fraud, money laundering and lying on shipping documents — related to shipments of computers and other equipment in 1998 and 1999 from their Richardson, Texas-based InfoCom Corp. to Syria and Libya, nations on U.S. restricted lists for high-technology goods.

A jury of three men and nine women took three days to convict Ghassan Elashi on six counts. Basman Elashi, the company’s shipping clerk, was convicted on all 23 counts. Ihsan Elashi was found guilty on 15 counts, Hazim Elashi on 15 and Bayan Elashi on 12 counts.

Each count could get the brothers as much as 10 years in prison and fines of up to $500,000. The brothers took the verdicts stoically, but several family members in the courtroom wept and prayed.

Government prosecutors said the brothers shipped some of the materials via Malta and Italy although they knew the final destination was Libya.

Defense lawyers argued that the accused didn’t know anyone in the embargoed countries and that errors in routing and shipping papers were innocent mistakes.

Ghassan Elashi has been free on bond, but the others have been held in U.S. custody since their arrest. Ihsan Elashi already is serving a four-year prison sentence on other charges connected with violating U.S. customs regulations.

Among the brothers, who emigrated to the United States in the 1970s and started InfoCom in 1992, only Ghassan and Ihsan are U.S. citizens.

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