Columbia-based IARA pleads guilty to violating Iraq sanctions
JEFFERSON CITY - The Islamic American Relief Agency (IARA), formerly headquartered in Columbia, pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday to transferring nearly $1.4 million to Iraq in violation of federal sanctions.
Through a representatve of the board of directors, the IARA pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and one count of obstructing the administration of internal revenue laws, which were contained in an Oct. 21, 2008, federal indictment.
The IARA served as the U.S. office of the Islamic Relief Agency (ISRA), an international organization headquartered in Khartoum, Sudan. The IARA took in between $1 million and $3 million in contributions annually from 1991 to 2003. It also received funds from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
The IARA was closed in October 2004 after being identified by the U.S. Treasury Department as a specially designated global terrorist organization. The IARA and its board of directors say it will not form a new corporation to conduct the activities that IARA formerly conducted.
By pleading guilty, the IARA admitted it secretly funneled $1,375,000 to Iraq in violation of United States economic sanctions. President George H.W. Bush declared a national emergency with respect to Iraq in August 1990, which resulted in sanctions against sending or transferring money, funds or goods directly or indirectly to any person in Iraq or to the government of Iraq.
In violation of the Iraqi sanctions, the IARA collected funds that were illegally transferred to Iraq with the assistance of a Jordanian national. According to Wednesday’s plea agreement, this individual either took the cash into Iraq or purchased items in Jordan and transported them into Iraq.
The IARA violated the Internal Revenue laws by using its tax-exempt status to solicit funds, make it look like they were legitimate charitable contributions and to misuse part of those funds by transferring them to Iraq, a purpose prohibited by law.
During the entire period in which the Iraq sanctions were in effect, the IARA asked for donations several different ways, including pamphlets, flyers, newsletters and personal correspondence, requesting contributions to pay for projects in Iraq. IARA did not disclose the fact that the organization had provided funds for projects and persons in Iraq in its annual filings with the Internal Revenue Service.
Several officials and employees of IARA have previously pleaded guilty and been sentenced.
Under the terms of Wednesday’s plea agreement, the government will recommend that no fines be assessed as the organization will voluntarily be terminated and it will give up all its funds and property. The plea agreement acknowledges that, because it is designated as a global terrorist organization and all of it's property is blocked, the IARA has no funds readily available to it to pay any fine.
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