CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Ashcroft, Mueller Make Announcement on Hamas Supporters
Aired December 18, 2002 - 14:55 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Live to Justice Department, Attorney General John Ashcroft. Also the head of the FBI, Robert Mueller. About to make a huge announcement with regard to the four brothers arrested in Texas on charges for supporting Hamas.
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JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Yesterday afternoon, a federal grand jury in Dallas returned an indictment against a senior leader of Hamas, Moussa Abu Marzouk, for conspiring to violate U.S. laws that prohibit dealing in terrorist funds.
Also charged and arrested by authorities this morning is Ghassan Elashi, the chairman of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development. Elashi and four of his brothers, all of whom are employees of the Richardson, Texas, based InfoCom Corporation, are charged with selling computers and computer parts to Libya and Syria, both designated state sponsors of terrorism.
The following individuals are charged in the 33-count indictment. Marzouk, his wife, Nadia Elashi, the five Elashi brothers and InfoCom Corporation.
If convicted, the defendants will face the following maximum penalties: 10 years in prison on charges of illegal exports to Syria and Libya, 10 to 20 years for money laundering, 10 years for dealing in the property of a designated terrorist and five years in prison for making false statements. The defendants could also be subject to fines of up to $7.2 million.
The war against terrorism is a war of accountants and auditors, as well as a war of weaponry and soldiers. Today's charges against a senior leader of Hamas are the latest in an aggressive campaign to identify, disrupt and destroy the sources of funding that make terrorism possible.
The Department of Justice has conducted investigations into terrorist financing in 22 states, secured 23 convictions, worked with the Treasury Department to freeze $112 million in terrorist- related funds. At this time, material support for terrorism charges are pending against individuals in Chicago, in Portland, Seattle, Buffalo, San Diego and Houston. And today seven individuals and one corporation just mentioned in Dallas stand charged with terrorist financing.
Terrorist money men should know this. "We are hunting down the murderers you support, and we will hunt you down. Just as we will prosecute the terrorists who plant the bomb, we will prosecute the terrorist supporters who write the check. We will follow the money of terror. And we will pursue the financiers of terror as aggressively as we pursue the thugs who do their dirty work."
In December of 2001, I joined with the president and the secretary of the Treasury in announcing the terrorist designation of the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development.
While styling itself a charity, the Holy Land Foundation was, in fact, the North American front for Hamas, the most lethal of the Palestinian terrorist groups.
Hamas has claimed responsibility for terrorist attacks that have killed hundreds of innocent persons in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, including two dozen Americans.
And the same time we announced the Holy Land Foundation's terrorist designation, we noted an apparent close association between the Holy Land Foundation and a company known as InfoCom.
On September the 7th, 2001, just four days before the September 11 terrorist attacks, the FBI's North Texas Joint Terrorism Task Force searched the offices of InfoCom, which were located in the same office park and shared some of the same employees with the Holy Land Foundation.
In addition, both InfoCom and Holy Land Foundation received their seed money from one of the defendants in the cases announced today, Moussa Abu Marzouk.
In 1995, pursuant to the law, Marzouk was specially designated as a global terrorist whose actions threatened the Middle East peace process.
Today, our indictment is a result of the investigation of the InfoCom corporation. The indictment alleges that Marzouk and his wife, a cousin of the Elashi brothers, engaged in a scheme with InfoCom officials to disguise Marzouk's capital investment in the company, and to continue to receive profits from InfoCom.
In addition, InfoCom and its employees are charged with making illegal shipments of computers and computer technology to state sponsors of terrorism Libya and Syria. The indictment further alleges that InfoCom and the Elashi brothers attempted to conceal these shipments from authorities.
Investigations of this size and scope are always a collaborative process. Today's indictment is the result of the dedication of attorneys and agents working under the direction of U.S. Attorney Jane Boyle. She joins us here today.
And I'm grateful for your excellent work and leadership.
Also central to this case was the work of Terrorist Financing Task Force which is directed by Assistant Attorney General for Criminal Division Matters Michael Chertoff. Michael, thank you for your work. The leadership that you have exhibited and the dedication to your tasks has lead us to this moment.
In bringing these cases, of course, our terrorist financing prosecutors relied on the expertise of U.S. Department of Commerce Office of Export Enforcement. Michael Garcia, the former head of the Office of Export Enforcement, and now the acting commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, deserves the thanks and praise of every American for his work on this case.
In addition I thank Lisa Prager, the acting assistant secretary for export enforcement, for her tremendous contribution to this case.
I also recognize Douglass Browning, the deputy commissioner of the U.S. Customs Service, for his agency's work in this matter.
Evidence for these charges was developed with the assistance of a number of the federal and state agencies represented on the North Texas Joint Terrorism Task Force, including the Internal Revenue Service, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Secret Service, the Customs Service, the Department of State, and the Dallas, Plano, Addison and Richardson, Texas Police Departments.
Now, these local police agencies are agencies for which we give thanks for their ability and willingness to cooperate to achieve this ability on the part of the Department of Justice to pursue these charges.
David Palmer, the chief of the IRS Criminal Investigation Division, joins with us here today for this announcement. On behalf of all Americans, I want to thank David Palmer and the dedicated personnel of all the agencies and departments for this significant step forward in the war on terror; a step that we take today.
Because these are detailed charges, I've asked U.S. Attorney Jane Boyle and Assistant Attorney General Michael Chertoff to be available to brief you immediately following this announcement. And I know that their fundamental awareness of these matters will be of assistance to you in their briefing.
I'm please now to call upon Robert Mueller, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
ROBERT S. MUELLER, DIRECTOR, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: Afternoon, everyone, and happy holidays.
Let me start off by saying that today's indictment is proof again that the FBI is committed to aggressively pursuing terrorists and disrupting terrorist networks wherever they are in the United States.
This investigation out of Dallas relied upon an array of intelligence and law enforcement initiatives and tools that have characterized our post-9/11 prevention efforts. And as the attorney general has explained, the North Texas Joint Terrorism Task Force, one of 66 such task forces that now operate nationwide as our local lynchpins in the war on terror, that task force was the driving force in this investigation.
I might add that that task force is one of the largest in the nation.
It has approximately 60 full- and part-time federal, state and local officers serving on it.
Outstanding teamwork, another cornerstone of the counterterrorism successes of the past 15 months, and the hallmark in Dallas since the JTTF was established in 1995, was a critical factor in bringing this case to a successful conclusion.
Intelligence and information was fully shared by all of the players; a sign of the new connectivity that exists at every level of the government.
Dallas investigators and experts in our new Terrorist Financing Operations Section back at headquarters contributed their expertise in tracking down the financial activities of the defendants in this case.
The FBI also supported the investigation with sophisticated information-gathering techniques, and with a cadre of translators from Dallas and here in Washington.
In addition, our network of 45 overseas offices, which constitute an important front line in the defense against terrorism, worked with our international counterparts in several nations to run down many important leads in this case.
Preventing acts of terror remains the FBI's top priority and it remains the FBI's...
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