Saturday, July 23, 2011
Father of Would-Be Suicide Bomber Convicted of Obstructing Terrorism Investigation
Mohammed Wali Zazi, the father of convicted terrorist Najibullah Zazi (“Najibullah”), was found guilty today by a Brooklyn federal jury of destroying bomb-making materials and conspiring to obstruct the federal investigation into Najibullah’s and his co-conspirators’ terrorist plot to attack the New York City subway system.
The verdict was announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; James F. Yacone, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Denver Field Office; Janice K. Fedarcyk, Assistant Director in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office; and Raymond W. Kelly, Commissioner, New York City Police Department.
Testimony and evidence at trial, as well as other court documents in this and related cases, established that a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of New York began investigating Najibullah’s plot to detonate improvised explosive devices in the New York City area in September 2009. The investigation by the grand jury and the Federal Bureau of Investigation revealed that Najibullah had sent e-mail messages to a contact in Pakistan seeking key ingredients for constructing a bomb, and had then rented a car in Denver, Colorado, and driven toward New York City. On September 11, 2009, while Najibullah was in New York City, the FBI conducted a covert search of his car and discovered handwritten bomb-making notes. Also on September 11, a Queens imam, who had been asked by authorities for information about Najibullah, tipped off the defendant and Najibullah about the investigation. Najibullah then returned to his home in Colorado.
After Najibullah returned to Colorado, his family members, led by the defendant Mohammed Wali Zazi, attempted to derail the federal investigation that was moving quickly to gather information about the plotters and the plot. For example, when asked about his relationship with the Queens imam who had tipped off the family about the investigation, the defendant lied to the FBI, claiming that he had no idea who the imam was—even though he had known the imam for years and had just engaged in a lengthy telephone call with him about the terrorist investigation. The defendant also lied about his relationship to Najibullah’s co-conspirator, Amanullah Zazi. Finally, the defendant directed family members to destroy Najibullah’s chemicals and other bomb-making materials so that the FBI would not find them.
When sentenced on December 2, 2011, the defendant faces a maximum of 20 years in prison on each of the two counts of conviction. Eastern District of New York Assistant U.S. Attorneys will also prosecute the defendant separately for visa fraud in the Southern District of New York.1
The defendant is the third individual to be convicted of attempting to obstruct the investigation in the Eastern District of New York into Najibullah’s and his co-conspirators’ terrorist plot. On January 8, 2010, Najibullah’s cousin, Amanullah, pleaded guilty to obstructing justice and aiding Najibullah and others in the receipt of al Qaeda training, and on January 22, 2010, Najibullah’s uncle, Naqib Jaji, pleaded guilty to obstructing justice.
“This defendant sought to conceal one of the most serious terror plots in recent times. He also enlisted others to help him spin his web of lies and to destroy key evidence. Had the plot not been thwarted, it would have left Americans at grave risk,” stated United States Attorney Lynch. “Just as we and our partners in law enforcement will vigorously prosecute those who plot terrorist attacks, we will also seek out and bring to justice those who obstruct the government’s investigations into those plots.” Ms. Lynch expressed her gratitude and appreciation to the federal and state law enforcement personnel who took part in the investigation.
“Mohammed Wali Zazi may have been under no legal obligation to assist investigators. But he lied to them, impeding the investigation and obstructing justice. Being uncooperative is one’s prerogative. Obstructing justice is a crime,” said FBI New York Assistant Director in Charge Fedarcyk.
NYPD Commissioner Kelly stated, “One of the reasons for New York’s safety in the decade since 9/11 was manifested in today’s verdict. The collaboration between NYPD detectives and FBI agents, and the prosecutors’ pursuit of justice in the case, has once again demonstrated the importance of that partnership.”
The government’s case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Berit Berger, Andrew E. Goldsmith and Melissa Marrus of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, and Trial Attorney Courtney Sullivan of the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, with assistance provided by Trial Attorney William Narus of the Counterterrorism Section.
1 The charges contained in the visa fraud indictment are merely allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.