Briton sentenced to 47 years in missile-smuggling plot
NEWARK, N.J. – A British businessman convicted of trying to smuggle shoulder-launched missiles into the U.S. to aid terrorists was sentenced Monday to 47 years in prison, effectively a life sentence.Hemant Lakhani, 70, was convicted in April of attempting to sell the missiles to a group he thought would use them to shoot down commercial airliners.During his trial, and again Monday, his lawyers said Lakhani was the victim of government entrapment because the supposed missile seller and buyer were actually government agents.Lakhani was convicted on all five charges he faced: attempting to provide material support to terrorists, unlawful brokering of foreign defense articles and attempting to import merchandise into the U.S. by means of false statements, plus two counts of money laundering.Federal prosecutors were seeking the maximum on each count, for a total of 67 years, with Assistant U.S. Attorney Stuart Rabner recounting evidence in which Lakhani volunteered praise for Osama bin Laden.”We may see a man who looks like us and dresses like us, but is so morally bankrupt that he plots the death of thousands of people,” Rabner said.U.S. District Judge Katharine Hayden rejected pleas for leniency from Lakhani and his wife, referring to what she called “overwhelming” evidence of his “reprehensible conduct.”Lakhani was arrested in August 2003 at a hotel near Newark Liberty International Airport where he had been meeting with a government informant posing as a representative of a Somali-based militant group.The government asserted that Lakhani planned to arrange the sale of at least 50 more missiles after the sale of the first one.Among evidence during the trial was a video secretly made at the hotel in which Lakhani and the informant are seen with a disabled shoulder-fired missile in a box. They stand by a window overlooking the airport and discuss how missiles could be used to bring down airplanes in several locations simultaneously.Co-defendants Yehuda Abraham and Vijay Raja are to be sentenced in coming months, while an Indian citizen caught in the sting operation was deported after cooperating in the Lakhani prosecution.Also, Moinuddeen Ahmed Hameed, 41, pleaded guilty in 2004 to conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business. He was sentenced in June to the 22 months he had served since his 2003 arrest.Vail, Colorado
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