NEW YORK — The U.S.’s hunt to track down those who would aid the Al Qaeda terrorist network has led FBI agents to Seventh Avenue.
This story first appeared in the August 14, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office has filed a complaint in Manhattan federal court against Uzair Paracha, charging that he met with a suspected member of the terrorist group while in Pakistan and agreed to enter the U.S. and pose as that person in an effort to obtain documents that would allow the Al Qaeda member to enter the U.S.
Paracha early this year worked out of a West 35th Street office that also was occupied by several garment companies. According to a source, Paracha’s father, Saifullah, is a Pakistani garment producer.
The younger Paracha was charged with providing “material support or resources” to a foreign terrorist organization.
In exchange, the suspected Al Qaeda operative — identified in the complaint only as “CC-1” — had indicated that he intended to invest $200,000 in a company for which Paracha worked that had operations in New York and Karachi, Pakistan.
A spokesman with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan declined to provide further details or to confirm the name of the company.
Sources said Paracha was arrested in March at his Garment District office, where he was running what was described as a front real estate company. According to court documents obtained Wednesday, Paracha is being held without bail.
Paracha’s lawyer, Anthony Ricco, did not respond to calls seeking comment.
An earlier press report said Paracha was employed by a garment sourcing company called International Merchandising Group, owned by Charles Anteby. Anteby on Wednesday denied that and said he had not employed Paracha. He acknowledged that Paracha occupied some space in a 2,600-square-foot office suite shared by Anteby’s firm and at least one other company.
Anteby added that his firm no longer did business under the name, International Merchandising Group, but declined to provide his firm’s new name.
In addition to seeking Paracha’s assistance in getting an Al Qaeda operative into the country, the operative sought to use Paracha’s company for money-laundering purposes, according to the complaint, which was filed Friday.
According to an affidavit signed by Janelle M. Miller, a special agent with the FBI and a member of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, federal agents first interviewed Paracha, a Pakistani citizen with a valid U.S. green card, in March.
The complaint alleges that early this year, Paracha met in Karachi with the Al Qaeda operative named as CC-1 and another person, identified only as “Subject-1,” who asked him to do work for the group in the U.S. In return, the two people told him they “wanted to invest approximately $200,000 in the business for which Paracha worked in Karachi,” according to the complaint.
“Paracha believed the funds to be Al Qaeda money, and CC-1 and Subject-1 wanted to keep the funds liquid and to be able to retrieve them on short notice,” the complaint continued.
In a statement, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said, “This case demonstrates that Al Qaeda will go to great lengths to enlist support here in the U.S. Our efforts are focused on identifying and dismantling those rings of support on which our terrorist enemies seek to rely.”