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Suman Guha MozumderIndia Abroad Correspondent in New York
A Pakistani American businessman, who was allegedly trying to illegally export military weapons, including Stinger missiles and M-47 Dragon anti-tank guided missiles, to a "foreign country", has been arrested by federal agents in Florida.
Mohammed Rajaa Malik, a resident of Jersey City, New Jersey, was arrested by undercover agents of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in Palm Beach, Florida, on June 12.
Malik, who was arrested with Diaa Mohsen and Kevin Ingram, both residents of Jersey City, faces a charge of trying to unlawfully export defence articles and launder money, according to court documents.
The documents, however, do not identify the "foreign country" where the three were said to be trying to export the weapons.
Prosecutors in Florida confirmed Malik's arrest, but declined further comment. "We cannot make any comment at this stage," a spokesperson for the US district attorney's office in Florida told India Abroad.
The ATF office in Florida could not be reached at the time of filing this report.
Fifty-two-year-old Malik, a former Jersey City zoning board commissioner, was arrested at a West Palm Beach warehouse where he and Mohsen had gone on June 12 along with an ATF undercover agent who was posing as an arms dealer to inspect a Stinger missile and an M-16 machine-gun.
According to the court documents, Malik, who had been in touch with the undercover agent since July 1999 and had flown to Florida several times since then, had visited the warehouse on August 17, 1999, along with an individual identified only as Abbas. On that visit they were shown M-16 machine-guns, nine inert Stinger missiles and a roll of live military explosives by the agent.
The arms were said to be for a former foreign military official. The undercover agent told them that the arms had been diverted from the military and weapons manufacturers and that he had no export licence to ship them.
He quoted a price ranging from $125,000 to $150,000 per Stinger.
Malik and Abbas discussed, according to the documents, how they could handle the shipment at their end so that it was not confiscated and also different ways to pay for the merchandise.
Malik, who had mentioned to the undercover agent that the arms were for a foreign country, had said during a meeting on December 27, 1999, that he had found private sources to finance the deal.
He had also asked for the operating manual for TOW and Stinger missiles.
Malik, who had travelled abroad a number of times since talk on the arms deal began, called the undercover agent on July 24 last year to say that he had hopes for the deal for which, he said, investors would wire $32 million to the two First Union bank accounts opened by the agent.
During the arms purchase deal on June 12, the two also agreed to take $2.2 million, which the agent told them he had received from the sale of Stingers, out of the country.
After a part of the money -- $500,000 -- was taken by Mohsen, the duo was arrested at the scene.
'There is probable cause to believe that Mohsen and Malik attempted to unlawfully export defence articles... attempted to transport explosives with the knowledge that it would be used to kill, injure or destroy property... and attempted to launder money,' according to a sworn affidavit by an ATF special agent before US Magistrate Judge Ann E Vitunac in the US district court in the Southern district of Florida.
News of Malik's arrest was received with shock and dismay in his hometown where he operated a number of liquor stores and smoke shops.
The Jersey Journal newspaper, quoting Malik's attorney, said the court records read like a "James Bond novel".
The attorney said his client was a victim of "entrapment".
Gerald McCann, former mayor of Jersey City, who had known Malik since 1981, described him as someone with political ambitions. "He is not the kind of person I would think would do something like that," McCann was quoted by the Journal. "It seems out of character."
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