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Four charged with sending cash to Iraq

©Associated Press
February 27, 2003

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Four men of Arab descent were indicted Wednesday on federal charges that they illegally sent at least $4-million to Iraq through a Syracuse-area charity.

The indictments contained no allegations of terrorism. And U.S. Attorney Glenn Suddaby said he does not know where the money went or what it was intended for.

"That's one of the questions we are unable to answer," Suddaby said at a news conference. "As money makes its way into Iraq, it becomes exceedingly difficult to say where it ends up."

Money transfers to Iraq even for charitable purposes are illegal unless the organization has U.S. government approval.

The four men are accused of soliciting contributions for a charity called Help the Needy from people in the United States, depositing the money in New York banks and laundering much of it through the Jordan Islamic Bank in Amman.

Charged were oncologist Rafil Dhafir, 55, of Fayetteville, N.Y., a U.S. citizen born in Iraq; Maher Zagha, 34, a Jordanian who attended college locally; Ayman Jarwan, 33, of Syracuse, a Jordanian citizen born in Saudi Arabia who worked as the executive director of Help the Needy; and Osameh Al Wahaidy, 41, of Fayetteville, a Jordanian citizen employed as a spiritual leader at the Auburn state prison and a math instructor at the State University of New York at Oswego.

Dhafir, Jarwan and Al Wahaidy were arrested in the Syracuse area. Zagha is in Jordan and efforts were under way to bring him back to the United States.

The four men and the charity were charged with conspiring to transfer funds to Iraq in violation of U.S. law. Dhafir, Zagha and the charity were also charged with money laundering.

Dhafir and Jarwan were ordered held without bail for another hearing Friday.

"I'm short on details," said Edward Menkin, Dhafir's attorney. "But Dr. Dhafir told me he was fully, deeply and openly involved in providing what he believed was food aid to Iraq."

Reached by telephone, Al Wahaidy's wife, Jamileh, said she did not know why her husband was charged.

Calls to Jarwan's and Dhafir's homes were not immediately returned. Dhafir's office was closed Wednesday afternoon.

If convicted, Dhafir and Zagha face up to 265 years in prison and fines of more than $14-million. Jarwan and Al Wahaidy each face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The charity could be fined $14-million.

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