FBI Investigates Arab American Businesses
- INVESTIGATIONS OF ARAB AMERICANS DRAW COMPLAINTS
Newhouse News Service
CLEVELAND -- Federal agencies increasingly are fighting the war on
terror with tax laws and food stamp regulations.
Investigators from the FBI, IRS and other agencies have turned to
tactics similar to those that broke the Mafia to investigate people
suspected of funneling money to terrorists overseas.
Decades ago, FBI agents snagged mobsters in low-level crimes and then
persuaded them to testify against their bosses in return for lighter
prison sentences. These days, federal investigators recruit Arab
informants involved in crimes such as food stamp fraud, income tax
evasion and drug trafficking, to penetrate organizations that
investigators believe might be sending money to terrorists.
Critics in the Arab-American and Muslim communities complain that the
tactics are nothing more than ethnic and religious profiling. The
investigations target businesses started by recent immigrants and
alienate the community without making a dent in terrorism, the critics
Law enforcement officials acknowledge that while there have been no
terror-related indictments in Cleveland, they investigate tips that
come in and then make the best case they can. A big part of their
focus has been trying to disrupt the money flow by giving greater
scrutiny to groups with access to large sums of cash.
A recent trial in U.S. District Court shed light on an investigation
that ensnared several Arab-owned businesses. In the case of Abrar
Haque, the FBI sent an undercover informant into Haque's Cleveland
accounting firm after getting tips that Haque was sending money abroad
Agents used the informant, wiretapped phones and secret video
recordings but found no evidence that Haque was sending money to
They did learn, though, that he sold phony financial documents that
his clients -- almost exclusively small-business owners from the
Middle East -- used to obtain fraudulent bank loans or welfare
benefits or free health care coverage intended for the poor.
Altogether, at least 15 people have been charged in the Haque
investigation, and prosecutors expect more indictments.
Isam Zaiem, chair of the Council on American-Islamic Relations'
Cleveland office, said the Haque case is an example of law enforcement
agencies targeting Middle Eastern immigrants based on assumptions and
"Not only in Cleveland but across the country, there's a perception
that law enforcement, post-9/11, have been targeting Muslims and
Arabs," Zaiem said. "We feel there's been an intentional targeting of
In some ways, there has been.
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