- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 7, 2010

KANSAS CITY, Mo. | A former Michigan congressman accused of accepting stolen funds to lobby on behalf of a charity with suspected ties to terrorism pleaded guilty Wednesday to obstruction of justice, but prosecutors said more serious charges would likely be dropped.

Former Republican Rep. Mark Deli Siljander, who served in Congress from 1981 until 1987 and as a United Nations delegate for a year, pleaded guilty in federal court in Kansas City to obstruction and acting as an unregistered foreign agent.

Charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering will likely be dismissed under the terms of the 59-year-old Siljander’s plea deal, said a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Western District of Missouri.

Abdel Azim El-Siddig, a part-time fundraiser for the Islamic American Relief Agency, also admitted Wednesday to conspiring to hire Siljander to lobby for the group’s removal from a Senate Finance Committee list of charities suspected of terrorist ties. Prosecutors said El-Siddig, of Chicago, concealed this advocacy and didn’t register with the proper authorities.

Prosecutors said Siljander received $75,000 from the charity to push for its removal from the list, and that the group paid him with funds obtained from the U.S. Agency for International Development for work it was supposed to have done in Africa.

Prosecutors said Siljander, who now lives in Great Falls, Va., lied to the FBI about being hired to lobby for the charity. He told investigators that the money he received was a donation to help him write a book about Islam and Christianity.

U.S. Attorney Beth Phillips said in a statement Wednesday that Siljander engaged in illegal lobbying for the charity, then used his own charities to hide the payments.

Siljander repeatedly lied to FBI agents and prosecutors investigating serious crimes related to national security,” she said.

The charges are part of a long-running case against the charity, which was based in Columbia, Mo., before it was designated in 2004 by the Treasury Department as a suspected fundraiser for terrorists.

The organization has long denied charges that it has financed terrorists.

Shereef Akeel of Troy, Mich., who represented the organization in a 2004 attempt to unfreeze its funds, said he’s frustrated that the group’s money remains frozen.

“The money should go to the people in need, and that’s the bottom line,” Mr. Akeel said.

Under federal sentencing guidelines, Siljander faces to up to 15 years in prison without parole, plus a fine of up to $500,000.

Siljander won a special election in 1981 to represent his southwestern Michigan district in Congress, and was appointed to a one-year term by President Reagan in 1987 to serve as a U.S. delegate to the United Nations.

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