WASHINGTON – A criminal complaint was filed today charging Mouyad Mahmoud Darwish, age 47, formerly of Maryland, with conspiring to act as an agent of a foreign government, specifically, as an agent of Iraq, announced United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein and Patrick Rowan, Assistant Attorney General for National Security.
Darwish is a Canadian citizen born in Iraq. During part of the alleged conspiracy, he resided in Maryland. According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, under the regime of Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) routinely recruited individuals, either currently in the United States or to be placed into the United States, to support the IIS and the Government of Iraq. Following the invasion of Iraq by coalition forces in March 2003, the United States military obtained confidential IIS documents establishing that Darwish provided information to officials of the Government of Iraq and intelligence officers with the IIS.
The seized documents also established that Darwish received payments from the IIS and the Iraqi government as compensation for his assistance and information. For example, an IIS document indicated that Darwish had provided information he received from a source of Iraqi descent that Iraqi volunteers, including the source, were being trained by the U.S. military in Virginia. Another document identifies Darwish as an employee of the Iraqi Interests Section (ISEC), formed in 1991 within the Algerian Embassy in Washington, D.C., after the U.S. severed diplomatic relations with Iraq for invading Kuwait.
Specifically, according to the affidavit, throughout the conspiracy Darwish performed tasks at the Iraqi Embassy and at the ISEC. For example, the affidavit alleges that from 2000 through March or April of 2004, Darwish was working full-time at the ISEC as an assistant to the accountant and as a driver, for which he was paid $1,500 per month. Darwish also had obtained a work visa for a position as a cook at a restaurant in Maryland during that time frame, in an effort to legally remain in the United States.
According to the affidavit, in January 2004, a co-conspirator asked that Darwish locate and destroy any ISEC files associated with the conspirator, in an effort to conceal that person’s ISEC activities and Ba’ath Party membership. While attempting to locate the files, Darwish learned that the files had already been destroyed and shared this information with his co-conspirators. Darwish also is alleged to have told his conspirators about his employment activities at the Iraqi Embassy and the ongoing activities in the United States of the Iraqi ambassador and other Iraqi government officials who were associated with the interim government following the downfall of the Saddam Hussein regime.
Darwish also is alleged to have attended social gatherings at the Iraqi Embassy and the ISEC, which were used to recruit individuals to work for the IIS; to interact with individuals who were already working with the IIS and Saddam Hussein’s regime; and to maintain the loyalties of the participants to the Ba’ath Party and Saddam Hussein’s regime.
Darwish was never recognized by the Department of State or the Attorney General of the United States as a diplomatic or consular officer of the Government of Iraq, or officially or publicly acknowledged and sponsored as an official, representative, or employee of Iraq.
According to the affidavit, from October 2001 through 2006 Darwish sought to obtain lawful permanent residence in the United States and filed documents in support of his application. Darwish never revealed his affiliation with the Ba’ath Party or the government of Iraq in applications to the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service (now United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) for residency status in the United States, nor did he reveal his employment with the ISEC/Iraqi Embassy from 2000 through early 2004, instead claiming that he first entered the United States on June 15, 2001 for the sole purpose of working at a restaurant in Maryland as a cook.
On May 20, 2003, during an interview with FBI agents, Darwish made numerous misrepresentations regarding his presence in the United States, including asserting that he arrived in the United States in May 2001; that he performed manual labor tasks such as mowing the lawn and making minor repairs for the ISEC; and that he had no knowledge of the intelligence activities being conducted by, or at, the ISEC.
Darwish faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison for conspiracy to act as an agent for a foreign government. He had an initial appearance earlier today in Buffalo, New York, on that charge. A detention hearing has been scheduled for tomorrow morning in Buffalo. Darwish was detained by immigration officials in Buffalo on December 24, 2008 when he attempted to enter the United States from Canada. No court appearance has been scheduled yet in Maryland.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein thanked the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for their investigative work. Mr. Rosenstein commended Assistant United States Attorney Christine Manuelian, who is prosecuting the case, as well as Senior Trial Attorneys Robert E. Wallace and Clifford I. Rones, from the Counterespionage Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, who provided assistance in the case, and Assistant United States Attorney Harvey E. Eisenberg, Chief of National Security, who supervised this case.