- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 9, 2006

Federal authorities have filed a criminal complaint against the longtime financial manager of the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C., one of the most prominent mosques in the country.

The FBI says in an affidavit that Farzad Darui of Falls Church defrauded the mosque of up to $374,000 from 2001 through 2004, according to recently unsealed records filed in U.S. District Court in the District.

The affidavit says that Mr. Darui used a post office box in the District to conceal the fact that he was altering mosque checks made out to other entities to make them payable to Virginia companies under his control.

The Washington Times first reported last month that the center had filed a lawsuit in federal court in Alexandria accusing Mr. Darui of embezzling funds.

Mr. Darui’s attorney, Victoria Toensing, declined to discuss the matter.

In an interview last month, he denied any wrongdoing and said he was being singled out for opposing a Saudi takeover of the center, which is located in the 2500 block of Massachusetts Avenue Northwest.

Officials for the center, which receives funding from Saudi Arabia, learned of the missing funds after commissioning a routine audit.

The center’s director, Abdullah M. Khouj, approved various checks at Mr. Darui’s request, but never approved payments to Blue Line Travel or Zaal Inc., according to the lawsuit.

Mr. Darui is a corporate officer for both of those companies. He has handled the finances of the mosque since the mid-1990s, the lawsuit states.

Concern about the center’s finances arose after Mr. Khouj ordered an independent audit because he was planning to leave his post to become Saudi ambassador to South Africa, the suit states.

According to the FBI affidavit, Mr. Darui “engaged in a scheme to defraud and, thereby, obtained at least $374,000 in funds to which he was not entitled.”

The affidavit says there is probable cause for Mr. Darui’s arrest on mail fraud.

He has since been released on personal bond, but has not been indicted, court records show.

The affidavit says that unauthorized payments were traced from the mosque to Blue Line Travel Inc. and Zaal Corp.

The affidavit adds that the center’s director “had never authorized or signed a check payable to either Zaal entities or Blue Line entities.”

“Furthermore, the director stated that the center had never done business with either Zaal entities or Blue Line entities,” the FBI complaint states.

According to the center’s lawsuit, the center is required to send copies of its checks to the Saudi Embassy in the District.

Mr. Darui frequently has served as the public face of the center and has been quoted in several national and international publications.

Dedicated in 1957, the Islamic Center is the District’s oldest mosque and serves thousands of local Muslims each month.

The center is ruled by a board of governors that mostly consists of ambassadors from Islamic countries. Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan, former ambassador to the United States, is the current board chairman.

The mosque has been a focal point in the District. Days after the September 11 terrorist attacks, President Bush visited the center to call for an end to violence against Muslims.

In March 1977, a dozen Muslim gunmen took over the center, the B’nai B’rith headquarters and the District Building, holding 139 persons hostage. One person was fatally shot during the siege. Marion Barry, who was wounded in the incident, won his first mayoral election the following year.

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