The federal government announced two $1 million awards for information leading to the arrest of Abid Ali Khan or for disrupting the immigrant smuggling network authorities say he oversees in moving people from Pakistan and Afghanistan into the U.S.
Mr. Khan has been indicted on smuggling charges in U.S. District Court in Virginia, and the Treasury Department blocked access to his financial dealings.
The State Department and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement are now tightening the net, offering the new $1 million reward payments.
The series of steps signals the intensity of the government’s concern over Mr. Khan, whom investigators say has helped “people with nefarious motivations” reach the U.S.
“Khan is a very dangerous individual whose activities and associations may pose a national security risk to the United States and our partner nations,” said Anthony Salisbury, special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations in Miami, which ran an investigation that led to the charges and sanctions.
Prosecutors say Mr. Khan‘s network shepherds people out of the Middle East and Southeast Asia into Brazil, then up the spine of South America, through Central America and Mexico, and to the U.S. border. Mr. Khan also arranges for false identities to help with illegal border crossings, the government said.
Clients and immigrants without documentation, including “nefarious” actors, pay the equivalent of $20,000 per person for the journey. That covers the fake documents, places to stay along the way and bribes.
The rewards come even as the Biden administration says the southwestern border isn’t an avenue for terrorist infiltration.
Yet the original sanctions on Mr. Khan were announced in early April, just days after Customs and Border Protection in El Centro, California, announced agents had arrested two Yemeni men on terrorism watch lists in the previous two months.
The CBP announcement was then scrubbed from the agency’s website. In a statement after the deletion, the agency said the news release “was not properly reviewed” and disclosed national security information that had to be erased.
In the months since, lawmakers have demanded to know the actual number of known or suspected terrorists nabbed at the border. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has rebuffed those questions in public, but has promised to deliver the answer in a classified setting.
Rodney Scott, who was pushed out by the Biden team as chief of the Border Patrol over the summer, said there is a real terrorist threat at the border.
“They exist, and they want to come across that border,” Mr. Scott told Fox News earlier this month.
Mr. Khan’s network appears to be only the second human smuggling operation to face Treasury sanctions.
The new $1 million rewards are being offered under the Transnational Organized Crime Rewards Program. Mr. Khan appears to be the only migrant smuggler on the list. The other 19 names range from accused Ukrainian hackers to Mexican drug cartel operators to Venezuelan money launderers.
Mr. Khan‘s network specialized in people from Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to the eight-count indictment. He has been operating since at least January 2015, prosecutors charged.
Authorities didn’t reveal how many people they believe Mr. Khan has helped smuggle into the U.S.
In a separate case last decade, investigators nabbed another smuggler who specialized in Pakistani, Afghan and Bangladeshi migrants. Sharafat Ali Khan, who was based in Brazil, helped more than 100 people move from their home countries to South America, then into the U.S.
Sharafat Ali Khan was arrested in 2016 in Qatar as he tried to flee Brazil to reach Pakistan. He was convicted of smuggling charges and sentenced to 31 months in prison. He was deported to Pakistan in late 2018.
At least one of the men Sharafat Ali Khan helped smuggle was on the terrorist no-fly list, had family ties to the Taliban and had been implicated in a plot to conduct an attack in the U.S. or Canada.