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'Missile' Briton's trial begins


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#1    <bleeding_heart>

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Posted 04 January 2005 - 10:21 AM

A Briton accused of attempting to smuggle anti-aircraft missiles into the US is due to go on trial.

Hemant Lakhani, 69, was one of three people arrested in a "sting" by the FBI, British and Russian intelligence.

Mr Lakhani, of north London, pleaded not guilty to charges of trying to sell 50 shoulder-fired missiles systems.

He also denies offering to procure tanks, C-4 explosives and a radioactive "dirty bomb", and faces up to 25 years in jail if convicted.

It is expected the Indian-born accused's legal team will tell the court in Newark, New Jersey, he is a victim of entrapment.

He is charged with one count of attempting to provide material support to terrorists, one count of unlawful brokering of foreign defence articles, two counts of money laundering, and one count of attempting to import merchandise into the US by means of false statements.

The indictment states: "Defendant Lakhani engaged in a scheme, whose primary object was to sell shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles to individuals who defendant Lakhani believed were terrorists."

Prosecutors are expected to submit tapes in which Mr Lakhani praises Osama bin Laden.

In a recent interview, Mr Lakhani said: "There was no missile, there was no buyer, there was no seller.

"They were looking for somebody. After 11 September, they couldn't find or pick up anybody."

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