Operation Cash-Out Charges 45 Defendants in International Money Laundering and Bribery Schemes

BALTIMORE , Sept. 20 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A federal grand jury has indicted thirty nine individuals and one business on charges arising from money laundering, conspiracy to bribe a public official, operating unlicensed money transmitting...

BALTIMORE , Sept. 20 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A federal grand jury has indicted thirty nine individuals and one business on charges arising from money laundering, conspiracy to bribe a public official, operating unlicensed money transmitting businesses and failing to file currency transaction reports, announced United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein. One defendant is also charged with one count of concealment of terrorist financing. The four indictments seek a total of $5,148,000 in criminal forfeitures and ownership interest in two convenience stores located in Snow Hill, Maryland. Five additional defendants have been arrested and charged by criminal complaint with bribery and one other with money laundering.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said, "Operation Cash-Out was a wide-ranging undercover investigation that yielded evidence of four separate criminal schemes involving at least 46 defendants in the United States , Spain , Canada and Belgium . Three of the indictments involve money laundering hawala schemes exposed through an undercover investigation in which a cooperating witness pretended to operate a business engaged in criminal activity. The indictments allege that the hawala money-transmitting businesses laundered millions of dollars that they believed were the proceeds of illegal activities such as drug dealing, by accepting the money in the United States and returning it in other countries. One of the defendants, Saifullah Ranjha, is alleged to have laundered money that he believed was to be used by al Qaeda, a foreign terrorist organization. The fourth indictment alleges a scheme in which many defendants conspired to bribe public officials with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to illegally obtain green cards and the Maryland Comptroller's Office to receive abatement of taxes owed to the state."

U.S. v. Saifullah Ranjha et al., MJG- 07-0239

According to the 31-count second superseding indictment returned in U.S. v. Saifullah Ranjha et al., Saifullah Ranjha operated Hamza, Inc., a money remitting business in Washington, D.C. From October 2003 to the present, Ranjha, Hamza, Inc. and five other defendants allegedly conspired to launder over $2.208 million received from a cooperating witness working with ICE and FBI agents. The money was purported to be the proceeds of drug trafficking, terrorist financing and trafficking in contraband cigarettes. Saifullah Ranjha, his brother Imdad Ranjha, and Muhammad Saqi obtained the money from the witness in Laurel, Maryland or at the Hamza, Inc. The defendants allegedly used an informal money transfer system known as a "hawala" which does not rely upon conventional banking systems and regulations, but involves giving the money to an individual in the United States , who in turn, arranges for the equivalent amount of money, minus commissions, to be paid back outside of the United States to an individual or financial account, as designated by the person seeking to have the money transferred. The defendants allegedly arranged for a network of persons or businesses to transfer the money into the cooperating witness's foreign bank accounts or to be delivered outside the United States , after taking out their commission of 5% or more. Saifullah Ranjha relied primarily on Mazhar Chughtai in Canada to arrange for the bank deposits. Ranjha provided the witness with coded contact information for Saqi and Parvez Sandhu who resided in Spain , and other Ranjha associates in Canada , England, Spain , Pakistan and Australia , in order for the witness to meet with them abroad and receive the monies.

Count two of the indictment alleges that from February 2004 to the present, Saifullah Ranjha concealed the source and ownership of the funds he received from the witness that Ranjha believed were destined for al Qaeda, a foreign terrorist organization.

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