Former IARA director pleads guilty in funding terrorism

Monday, June 28, 2010 | 7:38 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — A  Columbia man on Friday became the third person affiliated with the former Islamic American Relief Agency to plead guilty to participating in a conspiracy to illegally funnel more than $1 million to Iraq in violation of federal sanctions.

Mubarak Hamed, 53, a naturalized citizen originally from Sudan, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey to three charges contained in a 2008 federal indictment, according to a news release from Beth Phillips, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Missouri.

“This defendant used a Missouri charity to violate the United States’ economic sanctions against Iraq,” Phillips said in the news release. “Hamed compromised national security by secretly funneling more than a million dollars to Iraq.”

Hamed was executive director of the Islamic American Relief Agency, a charitable organization founded in 1985 that once operated from an office at 201 E. Cherry St. Formerly known as the Islamic African Relief Agency-United States Affiliate, the IARA was the U.S. branch office of a global network headquartered in Khartoum, Sudan.

The IARA in Columbia was closed in October 2004 and its assets were frozen after the U.S. Treasury Department identified it as a specially designated global terrorist group because its international offices gave money to Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida and the Taliban.

The FBI and 12 other agencies raided IARA offices and removed dozens of computers and boxes of documents on Oct. 13, 2004, according to a previous Missourian report. They also searched Hamed’s home and three local storage units.

Phillips said in the news release that the IARA collected between $1 million and $3 million in donations each year from 1993 to 2003. With Hamed at the helm, it had six full-time workers and 10 to 12 part-time staff members.

“Hamed and the IARA solicited charitable contributions throughout the United States and then illegally transferred funds to Iraq with the assistance of a Sudanese man living in Jordan, who was subsequently identified by the U.S. Treasury Department as a specially designated global terrorist,” Phillips’ news release stated. “Hamed admitted that he regularly wired funds to this person.”

Phillips said the government believes Hamed transferred a total of about $1.2 million to Iraq.

In pleading guilty, Hamed admitted that he conspired with others and that he violated the federal sanctions then in place regarding Iraq. He also admitted misusing the IARA’s tax-exempt status and lying to federal agents and the IRS.

“Today’s conviction is the culmination of nine years of hard work by federal prosecutors and investigative agents,” Phillips said.

Hamed, who faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1.5 million, is the third Columbia defendant to plead guilty in the case. Former IARA board member Ali Mohamed Begegni, 56, pleaded guilty to a role in the conspiracy on April 6, and fundraiser Ahmad Mustafa, 57, pleaded guilty in December to illegally transferring money to Iraq.

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