On Thursday, the Associated Press reported that Fareed Ahmed Khan (erroneously called "Farheed" in the AP report) had been indicted for lying to the FBI in a terror investigation. Khan, a Pakistani native who is a naturalized U.S. citizen, lives in Connecticut and is a well-known volunteer for the local chapter of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA)—an ostensibly non-sectarian organization that is in fact the American branch of terror-linked Pakistani Islamist group Jamaat e-Islami (JI).
The indictment covers two categories of false claims made by Khan: first, that he was unaffiliated with ICNA or its medical charity, Helping Hand for Relief and Development (HHRD), and had never collected money for ICNA; and second, that he had never sent packages to Pakistan beyond clothing for family members. (Khan's decision to lie about his membership in ICNA is especially bizarre, given that ICNA openly lists him as a contact on Facebook and in event materials.) It appears that these false claims only touch on a more serious crime, the details of which are still murky.
According to the affidavit of special agent Christopher Evans, Khan frequently volunteered for ICNA; and apparently his role related exclusively to fundraising: "For example, in January 2015, one of the charitable organization's leaders [said] that Khan was in charge of all money collections and had been in charge for a long time." Additionally, Khan had openly stated that all Muslims had an obligation to support jihad, and implied that he was doing so financially.
Investigators found large unexplained cash deposits (over $200,000 in total) being made to Khan's bank account from all over the country and even from British Columbia, which could not be explained by his car-mechanic salary. This money was used to buy medical equipment on eBay, which was then shipped to Pakistan.
Why Khan chose to lie to the FBI about these transactions remains to be seen. The recipient of the medical equipment was not publicly identified in the affidavit; nor is it clear why shipments of harmless medical equipment would have had to be obfuscated in this fashion. Khan's lawyer, Faisal Gill (former spokesman for the American Muslim Council, Bush DHS official, and chairman of the Vermont Democratic Party), claimed to the media that Khan was pursuing a "business opportunity" with his Pakistan partner, who was reselling the equipment to hospitals; while potentially benign, this would also be consistent with a money-laundering technique in which the payments from hospitals would then be directed to nefarious ends.
The affidavit has a few other points of interest. First, ICNA is referred to only as "the charitable organization," even though it is identified by name in the grand jury indictment.
Second, according to the affidavit, interviewers suggested to Khan that they were concerned about possible embezzlement from ICNA, rather than that ICNA was cooperating with his scheme. This may in fact be the case; but it strains credulity to think that Khan embezzled the entire proceeds of a back-to-school fundraiser (as the affidavit suggests) without local ICNA leadership being aware of it.
Third, investigators' interest in HHRD is encouraging. HHRD does a great deal of work in Pakistan; unfortunately, that work includes open collaborations with designated terror group Falah-e-Insaniat and other organizations linked to terrorism. Perhaps Federal agents are taking HHRD's misbehavior more seriously than in the past.
It appears that there are numerous threads still to be pulled. We will be monitoring the case to keep track of new developments.