– alleged plotter says in taped conversation
One of the men accused of planning to blow up New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport was of the opinion that they should have started negotiations with any financial backer at US$1 million, according to evidence in the terror trial.
Bloomberg.com yesterday reported that Trinidadian Kareem Ibrahim was overheard saying “I know this worth big money,” during a May 2007 meeting in Trinidad among the alleged plotters that was recorded by a US government informant and played for the jury in Brooklyn, New York, federal court yesterday. “I think most likely we should bargain for a million,” he suggested.
On trial are Russell Defreitas, a former Evergreen Airlines cargo worker at the airport, and Abdul Kadir, a former PNC member of parliament who are both charged with hatching the plot in January 2006. They had allegedly circulated their plan to an international network of Muslim extremists.
Ibrahim was granted a separate trial at a later date owing to a medical condition while the fourth accused, Abdel Nur pleaded guilty to one count of providing support to terrorists and faces a possible 15 years in prison.
“What is the price?” Defreitas asked during the meeting, according to the recording. “You can’t just start with zero, zero, zero. Somebody got to know a figure.”
According to Bloomberg, Assistant US Attorney Jason Jones asked Steven Francis, the government informant who infiltrated the group and who is on the witness stand, what Ibrahim meant when he said the men needed a “buyer”.
“It’s going to be the person or entity who’s going to support financially the JKF
plot,” Francis replied.
According to the recordings, Kadir agreed that his bank account could be used to hold the money.
“If the sponsor agrees, then we can transfer it to the mosque account,” Kadir said during a recorded phone conversation played for the jury today.
Prosecutors say Defreitas, Abdul Nur and Francis flew from Guyana to Trinidad in May 2007 to seek financial and other support from Abu Bakr, head of Jamaat Al Muslimeen, which staged a coup attempt in Trinidad in 1990.
Meanwhile, the report said that during the trip the plotters became concerned that Bakr might turn them in to curry favour with the Trinidadian government, Francis said. Nur had already told Bakr about the plot, the government informant testified.
Francis asked Ibrahim if he knew anyone with “the ability to pull this thing off,” according to the meeting he recorded with a body wire.
Ibrahim said he might have contacts in Iran who could support them.
Francis, a naturalized US citizen from the Dominican Republic, became a confidential informant for the federal government after he was convicted of drug trafficking.
In cross-examining him, Toni Messina, a lawyer for Kadir, asked the witness if, after several early conspirators dropped out, he wanted the plot to move forward so that he would avoid a prison sentence of 25 years to life for that conviction.
“Defreitas wanted the plot to continue,” Francis answered. “I had other investigations I was actually partaking of.”
The attack was designed to destroy “the whole of Kennedy,” the largest airport in the New York City area, Defreitas said in a taped conversation, according to the Justice Department. The plot was foiled in the planning stages.
The plotters conducted surveillance of the airport, including videotaping its buildings, and sought expert advice, financing and explosives, prosecutors said.
Defreitas and Kadir face life in prison if convicted.