Man Convicted of Trying to Sell Missiles
A federal jury convicted a former British clothing merchant Wednesday of attempting to sell shoulder-launched missiles to what he believed was a terrorist group planning to shoot down airliners. Jurors reached their verdict on Hemant Lakhani on their second day of deliberations. Lakhani has been held without bail since his arrest in a hotel room near Newark Liberty International Airport on Aug. 12, 2003. The sting operation, involving undercover agents from several nations, became the first terrorism prosecution in New Jersey since the Sept. 11 attacks. The government claimed Lakhani had agreed to arrange the sale of 50 more missiles.
Lakhani’s attorney, Henry Klingeman, told the jury in closings last week that his client was the victim of entrapment. “There was no missile plot until the government created it,” Klingeman said. “It’s a lot like a fireman who lights a fire and then pulls the alarm so he can be the hero.” But in his summation, Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Howe argued that Lakhani “pushed the deal and took steps to avoid getting caught.”
Lakhani, 69, was convicted of attempting to provide material support to terrorists, money laundering and other charges.
While I’m sympathetic to the entrapment defense–there are enough actual crimes out there without police having to stage them–it’s hard to come up with a rationale to explain away selling missiles to people one thinks are terrorists who aim to shoot down passenger planes.
What neither this story, the BBC account of how the sting transpired, nor the complaint against Lakhani explains, however, is what prompted the DoJ to go after him in the first place. Presumably, they had some reason to think he was in the business of selling arms to terrorists to begin with.