Man sentenced in NH court to 2 years in prison for arranging to export weapons to Pakistan

A New York man has been sentenced for his role in arranging to export weapons to Pakistan, which included making payments for a blade antenna manufactured by a New Hampshire defense contractor, the U.S. Attorney said.

Muhammad Mohsin Raja, 27, was sentenced Thursday in federal court in Concord by U.S. District Court Judge Paul Barbadoro to 24 months in prison and 1 year of supervised release, U.S. Attorney Jane Young said in a statement. Raja pleaded guilty to conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business on May 25, 2022.

Raja ran the unlicensed money transmitting business that was used to export weapons to Pakistan, transmitting approximately $4.7 million to Pakistan in 2021 alone, Young said.

Raja also made payments to a Florida firearms manufacturer on behalf of a Pakistani company called Al-Akbar Arms, Young said. The payments were for two shipments of assault weapons. Raja messaged another person suggesting they disguise the purpose of the payments as “purchasing watches as sports equipment,” said Young, adding that ultimately, law enforcement successfully intercepted the assault weapons.

“The defendant facilitated the export of weapons, and weapon components, to foreign national organizations that threaten U.S. security interests abroad,” Young said. “This case underscores the importance of our banking laws and regulations in protecting our national security interests.”

For several years, Raja operated a “hawala” based out of New York and worked with individuals in Pakistan to coordinate the transfer of money between groups in the U.S. and Pakistan, authorities said. A hawala is a type of informal money transfer system that uses a network of agents to transfer money across international borders without using the banking system, typically to circumvent banking laws and regulations.

As part of the hawala, Raja made multiple payments for products intended for an organization on the Commerce Department’s Entity List, Pakistan’s Advanced Engineering Research Organization (AERO), according to the U.S. Attorney.

“AERO was added to the Entity List, which imposes export restrictions for organizations whose activities threaten U.S. national security or foreign policy interests, for procuring items for use in Pakistan’s cruise missile and strategic UAV programs,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in its statement.

For example, Raja made payments for a blade antenna manufactured by a New Hampshire defense contractor, Young said. Those antennas are typically used in UAVs, tactical missiles, helicopters, and aircraft.

Raja also made payments to a Florida defense contractor for rotary pumps and a solenoid valve, Young said. The rotary pumps were designed for use in M110 self-propelled howitzers, and the solenoid valve was designed for use in an AIM-9 Sidewinder missile or an AGM-86B air-launched cruise missile.

“In operating the hawala, Raja used multiple cell phones to coordinate with other individuals, used multiple bank accounts, and enlisted the assistance of at least 10 friends and family members to visit banks and check cashing businesses to help cash checks, place money orders, and deposit funds,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in its statement.

“Raja over multiple years engaged in money facilitation in order to evade export restrictions and ultimately enabled the shipment of weapons overseas,” James Smith, Assistant Director-in-Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s New York Field Office, said in a statement. “This case highlights the important role that enforcement of financial laws plays in our national security. The FBI is committed to ensuring that anyone who engages in criminal activity in order to elude laws and regulations is held accountable in the criminal justice system.”

Rashel Assouri, Special Agent-in-Charge of the FBI’s Boston Field Office’s Office of Export Enforcement, said in a statement, “Preventing parties on the Bureau of Industry and Security’s (BIS) Entity List from acquiring items that contribute to programs of national security concern, such as components for use in cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), is a shared U.S. Government priority.”

“The Office of Export Enforcement, in coordination with our law enforcement partners, will continue to vigorously pursue, dismantle, and disrupt illicit networks that violate U.S. law,” Assouri said.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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