New York City suspect in missile plot is out on bond

A Manhattan diamond dealer charged with money laundering connected with an alleged missile-smuggling plot was released Wednesday after posting $10 million bond, The Associated Press reports.

Yehuda Abraham was freed from a jail in Paterson, N.J., after guaranteeing the bond with $5 million worth of property and 10 co-signers, federal officials told the AP.

Abraham, 76, and two other men are accused in a plot to smuggle shoulder-fired missiles that could shoot down a commercial airliner. They were arrested Aug. 12 in an international sting operation.

Abraham has been charged with conspiring to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business. The U.S. citizen faces up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

An Indian citizen, Moinuddeen Ahmed Hameed, has been charged with money laundering and conspiracy. A Briton, Hemant Lakhani, is accused of providing material support to terrorists and dealing arms without a license. Both are being held without bail.

A woman who identified herself as Abraham’s daughter answered the phone when the AP Wednesday evening at Abraham’s home in the New York City borough of Queens.

“We’re really not going to make a comment,” she reportedly said, “other than to say we’re happy to have him home.”

The arrests resulted from an investigation that began in December 2001, when the first of what eventually amounted to 150 conversations occurred between Lakhani and an FBI informant posing as a representative of a fictitious Somali Muslim group. Lakhani expressed an interest in brokering an arms sale, according to affidavits in the case.

During the same time period, Lakhani developed what he thought were contacts with Russian suppliers of shoulder-launched missiles. The contacts were actually Russian agents working with the FBI.

Last month the Russians gave Lakhani a fake missile that he thought was the real thing, and he soon asked them for 50 more of the weapons, according to court documents.

Abraham accepted an initial $30,000 down payment on behalf of Lakhani, and presumably got it overseas to accounts controlled by Lakhani, according to federal prosecutors.