Mumbai attack mastermind and Jamat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed was sentenced to 11 years in two terror financing cases on Wednesday, four days ahead of a crucial meeting of the Financial Action Task Force in Paris where Pakistan will present its case to get itself off grey list.
Saeed, a UN designated terrorist whom the US has placed a USD 10 million bounty on, was arrested on July 17 in the terror financing cases. He is lodged at the Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail in high security.
Anti-terrorism court Judge Arshad Hussain Bhutta sentenced Saeed and his close aide Zafar Iqbal to five and a half years each and imposed a fine of Rs 15,000 in each case. A total of 11 years sentence will run concurrently.
Saeed and Iqbal were sentenced in two cases registered against them in Lahore and Gujranwala cities on the application of the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) of Punjab police.
“Saeed and Iqblal will have to spend five and a half years in imprisonment,” a deputy prosecutor general said after the verdict.
Interestingly, the court on Tuesday accepted Saeed’s plea to club all six terror financing cases pending against him in the anti-terrorism court Lahore and announce the verdict on completion of the trial.
The verdict comes four days ahead of a crucial meeting of the FATF in Paris where Pakistan will present its case to get itself off grey list.
The FATF in October last decided to keep Pakistan on its ‘Grey’ list for failure to curb funnelling of funds to terror groups Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad and others.
If not removed off the list by April, Pakistan may move to a blacklist of countries that face severe economic sanctions, such as Iran.
The FATF is backed by the UN Security Council passed resolutions which made its recommendations binding and in case of deficiencies, sanctions could be imposed.
Earlier, the court had reserved the verdict in the two cases against Saeed for February 8 after the completion of the trial.
“However as the court resumed hearing in four other terror financing cases against Saeed and others on Wednesday, Judge Bhutta announced the verdict in the two already completed cases handing down a total 11 years imprisonment to Saeed and Iqbal,” deputy prosecutor general Abdul Rauf Wattoo said.
Saeed will undergo imprisonment at the Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail where he has been detained since July last.
The four other terror financing cases are against Saeed, Iqbal, Yahya Aziz, Abdul Rehman Makki.
The anti-terrorism court or ATC had indicted Saeed and his close aides on December 11 in the terror financing cases.
On last Saturday, judge Bhutta deferred the verdict against Saeed in two terror financing cases till February 11.
In the two cases, the prosecution produced some 20 or so witnesses in the ATC who testified against Saeed and his close aides for their involvement in terror financing. Saeed pleaded “not guilty” in both the cases.
The Counter Terrorism Department had registered 23 FIRs against Saeed and his accomplices on the charges of terror financing in different cities of Punjab province.
The cases were registered against Saeed and others in Lahore, Gujranwala and Multan for collection of funds for terrorism financing through assets/properties made and held in the names of Trusts/Non Profit Organisations including Al-Anfaal Trust, Dawatul Irshad Trust, Muaz Bin Jabal Trust, etc.
According to the CTD, investigation launched into financing matters of proscribed organisations – JuD and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) – in connection with implementation of UN Sanctions against these Designated Entities and Persons as directed by NSC (National Security Committee) in its meeting of January 1, 2019 chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan for implementing the National Action Plan.
“These suspects made assets from funds of terrorism financing. They held and used these assets to raise more funds for further terrorism financing. Hence, they committed multiple offences of terrorism financing and money laundering under Anti Terrorism Act 1997. They will be prosecuted in ATCs (Anti Terrorism Courts) for commission of these offences,” the CTD said.
The crackdown on Saeed’s outfit last year followed a warning by the FATF to Pakistan to deliver on its commitments to curb terror financing and money laundering.
Saeed-led JuD is the front organisation for the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) which is responsible for carrying out the 2008 Mumbai attack that killed 166 people, including six Americans.
The US Department of the Treasury has designated Saeed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, and the US, since 2012, has offered a USD 10 million reward for information that brings Saeed to justice. He was listed under the UN Security Council Resolution 1267 in December 2008.