OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY
WESTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
Contact Don Ledford, Public Affairs ● (816) 426-4220 ● 400 East Ninth Street, Room 5510 ● Kansas City, MO 64106
APRIL 6, 2010
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
FORMER COLUMBIA MAN PLEADS GUILTY TO VIOLATING
FEDERAL SANCTIONS AGAINST IRAQ
FORMER IARA OFFICER ADMITS ORGANIZATION
TRANSFERRED MONEY TO IRAQ
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Beth Phillips, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a former Columbia, Mo., man pleaded guilty in federal court today to his role in a conspiracy to illegally transfer funds to Iraq in violation of federal sanctions.
Ali Mohamed Bagegni, 56, a native of Libya who is a naturalized United States citizen and former resident of Columbia, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Nanette K. Laughrey this afternoon to the charge contained in a Jan. 16, 2008, federal indictment.
Bagegni was a member of the board of directors of the Islamic American Relief Agency (IARA), an Islamic charitable organization that was headquartered in Columbia (formerly known as the Islamic African Relief Agency-USA). Bagegni was associated with IARA from 1991 through Oct. 13, 2004, and served as secretary for much of his tenure on the board. IARA was officially formed in 1985 and closed in October 2004, after its funds and assets were frozen by the U.S. Treasury Department.
Under the authority granted by the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, President George H.W. Bush issued an executive order on Aug. 2, 1990, which declared a national emergency with respect to Iraq. The Secretary of Treasury issued the Iraqi Sanctions Regulations, which prohibited unauthorized travel to Iraq and unauthorized transfer of money or goods to Iraq by U.S. persons, including lawful permanent resident aliens. IARA never received authority from the United States government to transfer money to Iraq for any purpose.
During the entire period in which the Iraq sanctions were in effect, IARA solicited donations through various means, requesting contributions to pay for projects in Iraq. Bagegni admitted that IARA accepted monetary contributions specifically designated for projects in Iraq and that IARA used funds received as charitable contributions to engage in prohibited transactions involving Iraq. Bagegni held signature authority to co-sign checks and wire transfers on IARA’s bank accounts in Columbia. All disbursements of funds from IARA accounts, including a series of 22 illegal funds transfers routed through Amman, Jordan, to Iraq, were authorized by Bagegni.
On March 21, 2001, and August 1, 2001, the Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sent letters to IARA, asking about IARA’s activities in Iraq. According to today’s plea agreement, IARA’s executive director responded to OFAC on Aug. 21, 2001, claiming that IARA did not export any merchandise to Iraq and was only “trying to help Iraqi people outside Iraq.” Bagegni states that he did not know IARA had no permission to transfer funds or aid to Iraq, directly or indirectly, and that IARA’s executive director assured him everything IARA had done was legal. Bagegni further states that IARA’s executive director did not disclose to the IARA board of directors the fact that he had received the letters from OFAC, or that he had replied to them.
In entering his guilty plea, Bagegni admitted to participating in the conspiracy to violate IEEPA between October 13, 2004, and November 9, 2006, during which time he knew or should have known that IARA had transferred money to Iraq, and falsely stated to government attorneys and agents that it had not been.
Under federal statutes, Bagegni is subject to a sentence of up to five years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $250,000. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Anthony P. Gonzalez and Steven M. Mohlhenrich from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Missouri, in conjunction with Trial Attorneys Paul Casey and Joseph Moreno from the National Security Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, IRS-Criminal Investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and U.S. AID-Office of Inspector General.
This news release, as well as additional information about the office of the United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, is available on-line at