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Ali Kourani Found Guilty on Hezbollah Charges After Dubious Legal Advice at Seton Hall Will Appeal

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon

SDNY COURTHOUSE, May 16 – Ali Kourani was found guilty of material support to Hezbollah on May 16 in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York. Afterward Kourani's lawyer Alexei Schacht said Kourani will appeal, focusing on the admission into evidence of statements he made to FBI agents at meeting at Seton Hall.

  This was the subject of a suppression hearing before SDNY Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein, with Schacht arguing that the statements were involuntary and based on false promises of confidentiality by the FBI agents. Kourani's lawyer at the time, Mr. Denbeaux, was affiliated with Seton Hall. It seems a mutual friend Mr. Hickman put the two together.

  Inner City Press asked Schacht if Kourani may have some recourse with regard to Denbeaux. It seems not, since that might require as a predicate that Kourani was found not guilty.

  In a conference on March 9, 2018 with Schacht and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Emil J. Bove and Amanda L. Houle, Judge Hellerstein asked Schacht, "Let's say Mr. Kourani and his lawyer had a deep conversation, the lawyer gave professional advice that Mr. Kourani can't be prosecuted and it turns out that advise was wrong. Does Mr. Kourani have a remedy other than against his lawyer?"

  Schacht replied, "He certainly has, I think, under those circumstances a valid claim of ineffective assistance of counsel."

  It is unclear if after the May 16 verdict that is the case. More on Patreon, here.

  The sentencing will be on September 27 at 11 am. Schacht explained that the Sentencing Guidelines are extremly tough in terrorism cases, with the defendant's lack of criminal history making no difference. And so, the appeal. Inner City Press will continue to follow this case.

As the US summed up its Hezbollah terrorism prosecution against Ali Kourani with photos of his passport with an SIM card taped in it, the  courtroom was full. Hezbollah's yellow and green logo was emblazoned on the exhibits, many headlined "Hizballah Grooming."

  Ali Kourani traveled to China for the IJO; he took photographs of 26 Federal Plaza and 335 Adams Street in Brooklyn. Then after one of his handlers Mohammed Shawraba was exposed as a double agent for Israel, the IJO cut Ali Kourani loose. He offered evidence to FBI agents during meetings at Seton Hall, asking in exchange that his estranged wife's family be put on the no-fly list.

  He asked his lawyer Denbeaux to step outside and tried to make a deal. It did not work. Now it goes to the jury. Inner City Press will stay on the case.

Back on April 17 nearly 100 corporate lawyers jammed the courtroom of Judge Hellerstein, making motions for summary judgment. Hellerstein turned to the jury box, to the lecterns, to the cheap seats, and dismissed many motions. The case was and is,In re American Realty Capital Properties Inc. Litigation, 1:15-mc-00040. The trial is set for September 9, except that the Judge has hip replacement surgury set for late July. From Paul Weiss multiple lawyers jumped in, with Hellerstein swatting them down. He said he will be losing his deputy Henry in September. It was impressive, the day after Judge Hellerstein oversaw the twitching crucifixion of a criminal defendant held in jail for failing to return to his Bronx half way house after a mental health appointment. This is the SDNY - 100 lawyers fighting for scraps, with maybe one other media present; a mentally ill man remanded to the MCC without notice. Inner City Press will have more on both.

In other SDNY business action, the Bangladeshi Central Bank which was hacked for $81 million in February 2016, on January 31 sued in the SDNY. Now the first pre-trial conference in the case has been set, for 2 April 2019 before SDNY Judge Lorna G. Schofield. Inner City Press will be there.

To the Federal Reserve, Inner City Press requested records relating to the Fed's role with response officially due in 20 working days. But now this from the Federal Reserve: "Re:       Freedom of Information Act Request No. F-2019-00095     Dear Mr. Lee,     On February 19, 2019, the Board of Governors (“Board”) received your electronic message dated February 17, pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), 5 U.S.C. § 552, for records regarding the Federal Reserve System's [role] including the FRBNY's role in what is known as the Bangladesh Bank hack or cyber heist and assistance provided to Bangladesh Bank and investigative authorities since the heist, including but limited to in connection with the SDNY case Bangladesh Bank v Rizal Commercial Banking Corp et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 19-00983.      Pursuant to section (a)(6)(B)(i) of the FOIA, we are extending the period for our response until April 2, 2019, in order to consult with two or more components of the Board having a substantial interest in the determination of the request.     If a determination can be made before April 2, 2019, we will respond to you promptly. It is our policy to process FOIA requests as quickly as possible while ensuring that we disclose the requested information to the fullest extent of the law." And April 2 is the day of the SDNY hearing. We'll have more on this.

In Dhaka, the Criminal Investigation Department which failed to submit its probe report into the heist on time has now been ordered by Metropolitan Magistrate Sadbir Yasir Ahsan Chowdhury to do so by March 13 in Bangladesh Bank cyber heist case.

In the U.S. District Court for Central California, the unsealed criminal complaint against Park Jin Hyuk lists four email addresses involved in spear-phishing Bangladesh Bank and among others an unnamed "African Bank;" one of these addresses is said to also have communicated with an individual in Australia about importing commodities to North Korea in violations of UN sanctions.

In the SDNY, the case is Bangladesh Bank v Rizal Commercial Banking Corp et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 19-00983. On February 3 in Dhaka Bangladesh Bank's lawyer Ajmalul Hossain said it could take three years to recover the money. The Bank's deputy governor Abu Hena Razee Hasan said those being accused -- in the civil not criminal suit -- include three Chinese nationals. Ajmalul Hossain said the Bank is seeking its hacked million plus interest and its expenses in the case. He said US Federal Reserve will extend its full support and that SWIFT, the international money transfer network, also assured of providing all the necessary cooperation in recovering the hacked money.  The Philippines returned $14.54 million in November 2016, so $66.46 million has yet to be retrieved. Now defendant RCBC Bank of the Philippines has hired the Quinn Emanuel law firm to defend it, and it already fighting back in words. RCBC’s lead counsel on the SDNY case, Tai-Heng Cheng, said:  “This is nothing more than a thinly veiled PR campaign disguised as a lawsuit. Based on what we have heard this suit is completely baseless. If the Bank of Bangladesh was serious about recovering the money, they would have pursued their claims three years ago and not wait until days before the statute of limitations. Not only are the allegations false, they don’t have the right to file here since none of the defendants are in the US." But it seems the funds were transferred to and through the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. And as Inner City Press reported in the US v. Patrick Ho case last year, the wiring of funds through New York can confer jurisdiction. Inner City Press will be covering this case. The first paragraph of the 103 page complaint reads, "This litigation involves a massive, multi-year conspiracy to carry out one of the largest banks heists in modern history right here in New York City. On February 4, 2016, thieves reached into a bank account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (“New York Fed”) and stole approximately $101 million (out of the nearly $1 billion they attempted to steal). The bank account was held for the benefit of Bangladesh Bank, which is Bangladesh’s Central Bank. Bangladesh Bank has had a 45-year banking relationship under which it has placed its international reserves with the New York Fed. The New York Fed is a critical component of the United States’ central banking system and its link to the international financial system." Bangladesh's lawyers on the case are "COZEN O’CONNOR John J. Sullivan, Esq.  Jesse Loffler, Esq. Yehudah Gordon, Esq." We'll have more on this.

Debaprasad Debnath, a general manager at the central bank’s Financial Intelligence Unit, Joint Director Mohammad Abdur Rab and Account and Budgeting Department General Manager Zakir Hossain all left Dhaka to head to New York, for the filing of the lawsuit, which Inner City Press will be following.

They say the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which on January 29 was instructed by the US State Department to allow Juan Guaido to access Venezuelan accounts, will be helping its Bangladeshi counterpart to get to the bottom of the hack.  Those eyed include Philippines’ Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation or RCBC and some of its officials, and Philrem Service Corporation, casino owners and beneficiaries. Ajmalul Hossain QC, a lawyer for the central bank, is with them to file the case.

It is an interesting twist on the SDNY as venue for the money laundering and FCPA prosecution of Patrick Ho of CEFC for bribery in Chad and to Uganda - in this case, too, the money flowed through New York. Inner City Press intends to cover the case.


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