September 12, 2005
British businessman sentenced in US weapons case
NEWARK, New Jersey (Reuters) - A U.S. federal court judge
on Monday sentenced British businessman Hemant Lakhani to 47
years in prison for providing financial support for terrorist
activities against the United States.
Prosecutors say Lakhani, 70, tried to sell a shoulder-fired
missile to a man posing as a terrorist group member. He was
found guilty in April of attempting to support terrorism,
illegal arms brokering, money laundering and other charges.
Lakhani, who had faced a maximum sentence of 67 years, has
maintained he was set up in a sting operation.
"It's a total lie," he said, holding his head in his hands,
at the defense table in U.S. District Court in Newark, N.J.
His conviction was considered one of the more significant
victories for the U.S. Justice Department since the September
11, 2001 attacks and the launch of the U.S.-led war on terror.
Lakhani, his attorney, Henry Klingeman, and his wife
pleaded for leniency, noting he is elderly and wants to return
home to Britain.
"Mr. Lakhani is not entitled to leniency. He's entitled to
fairness," U.S. District Court Judge Katharine Hayden said in
handing down the sentence.
Lakhani was arrested two years ago after U.S. Customs
officers and FBI agents stormed a New Jersey hotel room and
found him showing a "sample" shoulder-fired anti-aircraft
missile to an informant posing as a member of a Somali militant
The arrest was the culmination of a 22-month sting spanning
The Indian-born clothing merchant has claimed he was a
victim of entrapment because the buyer was an FBI informant and
the missile sellers were undercover Russian agents.
Prosecutors said Lakhani had agreed to sell as many as 200
missiles to the informant and that he believed they would be
used to shoot down U.S. airliners.
They said evidence showed he was a willing participant in
the scheme, that he associated with a reputed terrorist and
tried to broker other arms deals negotiated during 200 phone
calls with the informant and 12 trips to Russia and Ukraine.