JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri-based Islamic charity that was shut down after the federal government deemed it a global terrorist organization had its assets transferred and was officially dissolved Thursday for violating U.S. sanctions by transferring nearly $1.4 million to Iraq, the U.S. Attorney's office said.
Articles of dissolution were filed with the Missouri Secretary of State to officially end the Islamic American Relief Agency. IARA, formerly headquartered in Columbia, Missouri, also had all of its assets transferred to Heifer International Inc., a charity that works to provide relief to farmers and drought victims in east Africa.
A representative of the IARA pleaded guilty in July to conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and to one count each of conspiracy to commit money laundering and obstructing the administration of internal revenue laws.
The transfer of nearly $819,000 from 14 bank accounts and interest in real estate in Boone County, Missouri, to Heifer International was part of an agreement reached after the plea.
IARA, which was the U.S. office of the Sudan-based Islamic Relief Agency, took in between $1 million and $3 million in contributions annually from 1991 to 2003, federal authorities said.
The group was closed down in October 2004 after being identified by the U.S. Treasury Department as a specially designated global terrorist organization. After being indicted in 2008, IARA was reconstituted to resolve the crimes that led to July's plea and Thursday's sentencing. The group and its governing board agreed not to form a similar group.
The IARA's executive director, fundraiser and a board member previously were sentenced for their roles in the scheme to illegally transfer money. Mark Deli Siljander, a former Michigan congressman and U.S. delegate to the United Nations, was sentenced in 2012 to a year and one day in prison for lobbying for the IARA.
As part of the plea, IARA admitted it secretly funneled $1.375 million in cash or merchandise to Iraq in violation of U.S. economic sanctions dating to 1990.
The original indictment alleged the charity sent about $130,000 to help Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, whom the United States has designated as a global terrorist. The money, sent to bank accounts in Pakistan in 2003 and 2004, was masked as donations to an orphanage located in buildings that Hekmatyar owned. Authorities described Hekmatyar as an Afghan mujahedeen leader who has participated in and supported terrorist acts by al-Qaida and the Taliban.
Prosecutors also said IARA wrongly used its tax-exempt status to solicit funds, representing them as legitimate charitable contributions.
On Thursday, prosecutors noted IARA's connection to the al-Qaida dated back to well before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. For example, one member of the group who was a fundraiser based in Columbia, Missouri, delivered to al-Qaida operatives a satellite phone that was used to orchestrate the Aug. 7, 1998, bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed more than 200 people.
IARA's former executive director, Mubarah Hamed, a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Sudan, served nearly five years in federal prison for illegally sending more than $1 million to Iraq through the charity, and two IARA fundraisers were sentenced to probation for their role in the conspiracy.