Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Pair held on terror funding charges

US couple held on charges they conspired to provide funds to a terrorist group

A couple have been arrested on charges that they conspired to provide thousands of dollars to a Middle East terrorist group, US authorities said.

Hor Akl and his wife Amera were taken into custody after an FBI informant provided them with 200,000 dollars (£136,000) in cash, which they were preparing to hide in a vehicle that was to be shipped to Lebanon, prosecutors said.

The Akls planned to conceal up to 500,000 dollars (£341,000) so the money could be given to Hezbollah on behalf of anonymous donors in the US, a court complaint said.

The US government lists Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation and blames it for numerous attacks on Israel. Hezbollah has been trying to reinvent itself as a more conventional political movement in Lebanon.

The Akls, both aged 37 and from Ohio, face numerous charges including conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organisation, which carries a maximum sentence of up 15 years in prison and a fine of 500,000 dollars (£341,000) upon conviction.

Prosecutors said Hor Akl travelled to Lebanon in March to arrange the delivery of money. He returned to the United States claiming that he had met Hezbollah officials, the complaint said.

The Akls expected to receive a fee or commission for arranging the transfer of funds, prosecutors said.

"Those who wilfully work to fund terror with US dollars must understand that the FBI works even harder to ensure that they fail," said C Frank Figliuzzi, a special agent in charge of the FBI's Cleveland office.

The Akls are dual citizens of the US and Lebanon, the complaint said. Hor Akl works at a Toledo bar with his brother-in-law. He told the FBI informant that his brother-in-law, unnamed in the complaint, operated a Lebanon recreation club used frequently by Hezbollah to conduct meetings, prosecutors said.

Authorities have not said whether more charges are expected in the case.

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