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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Massachusetts

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Over $642,000 from Forfeited Property to Aid Victims of Terrorism

Funds are from sale of forfeited Waltham home allegedly used to violate export restrictions to Syria

BOSTON – U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins announced today that $642,702 from the civil forfeiture of a Waltham home of two fugitives has been approved for deposit to the United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund, which provides compensation to United States persons injured in acts of international state-sponsored terrorism. 

The $642,702 was recovered through a civil forfeiture action against the former residence and business location of Anni Beurklian, a/k/a Anni Ajaka (Beurklian) and her husband, Antoine Ajaka, a/k/a Tony Ajaka (Ajaka). The couple was previously indicted in connection with a scheme to smuggle goods out of the United States and to supply services to Syria. While engaged in plea negotiations with the United States government, Beurklian and Ajaka fled the United States in 2018 to avoid prosecution, and are believed to be outside the United States, namely in Syria or Lebanon.

In 2020, the United States filed a civil forfeiture action against the couple’s Waltham residence, alleging that from 2014 and continuing until the couple fled the United States, Beurklian and Ajaka operated an export business, Top Tech U.S. Inc., from the Waltham home. The couple used the property home to procure goods, including electronics, computer equipment and electrical switches, from United States companies and from that home, exported those goods to various countries, including Lebanon, Egypt and China, in violation of federal law.

One of their customers was Amir Katranji (Katranji), a citizen of Syria who operates and manages EKT. In 2007, EKT and its founder, Mohammad Katranji, Amir Katranji’s father, were added to the Department of Commerce’s Entity List because the United States government had determined that EKT and Mohammad Katranji were involved in activities related to the acquisition, attempted acquisition and/or development of improvised explosive devices, which were being used against United States and Coalition troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Title 19 of the United States Code provides that property used to facilitate the exporting or sending of merchandise from the United States contrary to law shall be seized and forfeited to the United States.

Although the couple had not returned to the United States, they filed a claim to maintain ownership of the home. In May 2021, United States Judge Leo T. Sorokin denied the claim under the fugitive disentitlement statute, which allows the court to deny a claim in a civil forfeiture action from a person who is avoiding criminal prosecution in the United States. 

Homeland Security Investigations sold the Waltham home for a net recovery of over $856,000 and applied to have seventy-five percent of the net proceeds, or approximately $642,702, be used to pay eligible victims of state sponsored terrorism. That request was approved by the Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section of the Department of Justice this August, resulting in these funds being deposited in the United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund.

In July of 2018, the U.S. Department of the Treasury designated EKT, Katranji, Beurklian and Ajaka as Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferators pursuant to Executive Order 13382. Accordingly, it is illegal for any U.S. person to do business with them. These designations and sanctions were imposed against EKT, Katranji, Beurklian and Ajaka in coordination with similar actions by the French government based upon evidence that EKT was involved in the development of chemical weapons used by the Syrian Government.

United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins; Matthew Millhollin, Special Agent in Charge of the Homeland Security Investigation, Boston Field Office; and Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division made the announcement today. The civil forfeiture action was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Carol E. Head, Chief of Rollins’ Asset Recovery Unit.

Topic(s): 
Asset Forfeiture
Component(s): 
Updated September 13, 2022