After spending more than a year in Miami jail, Pakistani money changer Altaf Khanani, known to have links with terror outfits like the LeT, JeM and underworld don Dawood Ibrahim has been sentenced to 68 months in prison and slapped with a hefty fine of USD 250,000 (Rs.1.62 crore) by a US court for laundering money for militants and criminal groups.
Khanani was one of the principal directors of Khanani and Kalia International (KKI), a leading money exchange and transfer company, which had been involved in money laundering for over a decade.
He was convicted on March 29 by a United States District Court in Florida after spending more than a year in a Miami jail, the Dawn newspaper reported.
Khanani was convicted on one count of conspiracy to commit laundering.
The remaining 13 counts of actually committing money laundering were dismissed at the request of the prosecution, which cited Khanani's cooperation in the investigation after he agreed to plead guilty and "to make a full, accurate and complete disclosure of the circumstances surrounding the relevant offense conduct", according to the plea agreement signed in October 2016.
The agreement says the prosecution will recommend leniency during sentencing because Khanani "has assisted authorities in the investigation or prosecution" of his crime.
For over a decade, KKI was one of the largest and most sophisticated exchange companies in Pakistan, running a global network of franchises that could move "billions of dollars" around the world for a clientele that the US Treasury department says included Chinese, Mexican and Colombian organised crime groups and designated terrorist organisations, the report said.
"Altaf Khanani is known to have had relationships with Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Dawood Ibrahim, al-Qa'ida, and Jaish-e-Mohammed," the treasury department said in November 2015, a few months after his arrest in the US.
Upon his release, he will be handed over to immigration authorities for deportation proceedings.
In June 2015, Khanani was indicted on 14 counts of money laundering, each carrying a 20-year jail term with a USD 250,000 fine, following a sting operation by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
The investigation spanned across the US, Australia and the UAE and was carried out by multiple law enforcement bodies, including the DEA, FBI, US Customs and Border Protection, Australian Federal Police, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission and the UAE Police and Central Bank.
He was arrested in September 2015 and has been in jail ever since.
Initially he pleaded not guilty to all charges and demanded a jury trial. But on November 1 last year, changed his plea to guilty on one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and the US Attorney's Office agreed to drop the other 13 counts and seek leniency in sentencing in return for his cooperation in the investigation.
(With inputs from PTI)