In a statement on Wednesday, the US Department of Justice said one US citizen and two Pakistani nationals have been charged for campaigning to transport U.S. currency from the United States to Iran on behalf of Iran's Supreme Leader in 2018 and 2019.
Muzzamil Zaidi, a U.S. citizen residing in the Iranian city of Qom, and two Pakistani nationals, Asim Naqvi and Ali Chawla, were all charged with violations of the Interrnational Emergency Economic Powers Act. Zaidi and Naqvi were arrested in Houston on August 18, the statement said.
“Disrupting Iran’s ability to raise U.S. dollars is key to combating its ability to sponsor international terrorism and destabilize the Middle East, including through its military presence in Yemen,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers.
The defendants, according to Demers, allegedly raised money in the United States on behalf of Iran’s Supreme Leader, and illegally channeled these dollars to the government of Iran.
According to the Acting United States Attorney for the District of Columbia Michael R, Sherwin, the defendants have considerable operational links to Iran's Revolutionary Guard which he said has conducted multiple terrorist operations throughout the world over the past several years.
"The life-blood of these terrorist operations is cash – and the defendants played a key role in facilitating that critical component,” he added.
The complaint against the defendants alleges that Zaidi and other members of an organization known as "Islamic Pulse" had received the Iranian Supreme Leader's written permission around February 2019 to collect a religious tax known as khums and send half of that money to Yemen. Khamenei has been under U.S. sanctions since June 2019.
The complaint alleges that Chawla replied to donors’ concerns about how the campaign was able to get money into Yemen by stating that the matter could not be discussed over email. The complaint further alleges that Chawla sought U.S. dollars specifically, stated that Islamic Pulse could not accept electronic transfers, and admitted that Islamic Pulse was not a registered charity.
The unspecified amount of money collected by Zaidi and Naqvi in the summer and fall of 2019, according to the U.S. Justice Department, was transported to Iran through clandestine operations including by a group of 25 travelers.