Highlights of FBI's Case Against Alleged Smuggler

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Some highlights from an FBI affidavit (search) filed in federal court in New Jersey, outlining the alleged plot to smuggle a shoulder-launched missile into the United States:

--Investigation began in December 2001, when a "cooperating witness" or informant under federal law enforcement control began talking with the alleged arms dealer, Hemant Lakhani (search), about obtaining anti-aircraft guns and missiles. The witness told Lakhani he was representing a Somali group that wanted to buy one missile initially "with a purchase of a greater number of missiles to follow."

--Between Dec. 2001 and Aug. 13, 2003, more than 150 conversations between Lakhani and the FBI informant were either audiotaped or videotaped. Most of the conversations were in the Urdu and Hindi languages.

--During a Jan. 17, 2002 meeting in New Jersey that was recorded, Lakhani is overheard discussing Usama bin Laden with the informant, saying that bin Laden "straightened them all out" and "did a good thing."

--On Sept. 17, 2002, Lakhani and the informant met at a hotel overlooking the Newark airport. Lakhani "verified with the cooperating witness that the purpose of shooting down a commercial aircraft was to cause economic harm to the United States. 'Make one explosion ... to shake the economy,"' Lakhani is quoted as saying.

--In April 2002 at a hotel in New Jersey, Lakhani and the informant discussed various models of shoulder-fired missiles. The informant said he wanted them for "jihad (search)" and to shoot down a plane. Lakhani confirmed he would work with the witness and asked if the witness wanted as many as 200 missiles. The witness says he just wants one to start.

--On Aug. 20, 2002, Lakhani faxed to the witness in New Jersey a document listing a price for the Igla (SA-18 (search)) missile and launcher device. In October 2002, the price was put at $85,000, with a down payment of $30,000.

--In November 2002, Lakhani and the witness had several conversations about the deal, with Lakhani repeatedly warning that arms trafficking is "very dangerous." He warns the witness against depositing money into the supplier's account, saying that "This business is getting so dangerous. No one has the guts to do it."

-- In December 2002, Lakhani told the informant to get copies of news magazines discussing the failed Al Qaeda plot to down a jetliner in Mombasa, Kenya. Lakhani says that the missiles used in that attack are older and that "ours is much higher quality." The Kenya attack was with an older SA-7 model.

--In February 2003, Lakhani sent to the informant an invoice, purportedly from a company in Cyprus for "spare parts for medical facilities" and for a "laboratory bench." In March 2003, Lakhani tells the informant that the missile would be shipped from St. Petersburg, Russia, with documents listing it as "spare parts."

--Lakhani traveled to Moscow on July 12, 2003, to finalize the sale. Lakhani met there with the cooperating witness and two officers of Russia's Federal Security Service (search) posing undercover as suppliers. They displayed what appeared to be an actual missile, but officials had substituted a replica. Lakhani actually holds it up at one point, according to a videotape.

--On July 15, 2003, Lakhani asked for a commitment from the Russian "suppliers" for 50 more missiles to be sent to the United States by Aug. 30. Lakahni also said he was interested in purchasing a multi-ton batch of C-4 plastic explosive.

--In early August, Lakhani agrees to travel to New Jersey to verify shipment of the first missile and to make arrangements for the 50-missile deal. The initial payment for that deal was supposed to be $500,000.