U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of New Hampshire
Thursday, August 31, 2023
CONCORD – A New York man was sentenced today in federal court in Concord for operating an unlicensed money transmitting business that was used to export weapons to Pakistan, U.S. Attorney Jane E. Young announces.
Muhammad Mohsin Raja, 27, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Paul J. Barbadoro to 24 months in prison and 1 year of supervised release. On May 25, 2022, Raja pleaded guilty to conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business.
“The defendant facilitated the export of weapons, and weapon components, to foreign national organizations that threaten U.S. security interests abroad,” U.S. Attorney Jane E. Young said. “This case underscores the importance of our banking laws and regulations in protecting our national security interests.”
“Raja over multiple years engaged in money facilitation in order to evade export restrictions and ultimately enabled the shipment of weapons overseas,” said James Smith, Assistant Director-in-Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office. “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.”
“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,” said Rashel D. Assouri, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Boston Field Office, Office of Export Enforcement. “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.”
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 parties in the United States and Pakistan. 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.
The defendant transmitted approximately $4.7 million to Pakistan in 2021 alone. As part of the hawala, he made multiple payments for products intended for an organization on the Commerce Department’s Entity List, Pakistan’s Advanced Engineering Research Organization (AERO). 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. For example, the defendant made payments for a blade antenna manufactured by a New Hampshire defense contractor. Those antennas are typically used in UAVs, tactical missiles, helicopters, and aircraft. The defendant also made payments to a Florida defense contractor for rotary pumps and a solenoid valve. 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.
The defendant also made payments to a Florida firearms manufacturer on behalf of a Pakistani company called Al-Akbar Arms. The payments were for two shipments of assault weapons. The defendant messaged another individual suggesting they disguise the purpose of the payments as “purchasing watches as sports equipment.” However, law enforcement successfully intercepted the assault weapons.
In operating the hawala, the defendant 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.
Department of Commerce’s Office of Export Enforcement and Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office led the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexander S. Chen prosecuted the case.
Updated August 31, 2023