Authorities have unsealed an indictment charging the president of the Central Mosque of Charleston, Nasser Alquza, with illegally selling cigarettes after being caught in a sting operation. Ten other individuals were also charged.
The investigation began in 2009 when the government learned that one of the defendants was trying to buy cigarettes in the Carolinas below their regular price. The suspected objective was to sell them for profit at other states with higher sales taxes without paying the government as required.
According to the indictment, Alquza paid $7.5 million to undercover government agents for almost 7,000 boxes of cigarettes. The conspirators used businesses to hide the money they earned from the illegal sales. If it would have been a legitimate sale, the defendants would have received over $15 million.
The Investigative Project on Terrorism points out that there was a very similar case in Charlotte, N.C. in the 1990s where the Hezbollah terrorist group was financed through the illegal sale of cigarettes.
The website of Nasser Alquza’s Central Mosque of Charleston shows it has linkages to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Article XVII of its published bylaws states that if the mosque is dissolved then “all remaining assets of the mosque shall be turned over to the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT) or such other Islamic Center…”
NAIT was identified as a Muslim Brotherhood entity by the FBI as early as 1987. A 1991 U.S. Muslim Brotherhood memo confirmed that NAIT is one of “our organizations and the organizations of our friends” and stated that the network’s goal is to wage a “kind of grand jihad in America … by eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within …”
In 2007, NAIT was labeled an unindicted co-conspirator by federal prosecutors in the trial of the Holy Land Foundation, a U.S. Muslim Brotherhood front that was shut down for financing Hamas. The U.S. government stated that NAIT is also a U.S. Muslim Brotherhood entity.
The label was upheld in a 2009 ruling that found “ample” evidence linking NAIT to the Muslim Brotherhood/Hamas network in the U.S. For example, checks for Hamas were deposited into a NAIT bank account.
The header of the Central Mosque of Charleston’s website links to the Shifa Clinic in Mount Pleasant, S.C. That organization says it is run by the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), a derivative of the radical Jamaat-e-Islami group from Pakistan. ICNA is also listed as one of “our organizations and the organizations of our friends” in the 1991 U.S. Muslim Brotherhood memo. The document refers to meetings between ICNA and Muslim Brotherhood operatives to implement a merger.
The Shifa Clinic is specifically run by ICNA Relief, a humanitarian branch of ICNA. In 2006, ICNA Relief USA and ICNA Relief Canada were the top two donors to a Jamaat-e-Islami entity named the Al-Khidmat Foundation that delivered $100,000 to Hamas. A third ICNA charity, Helping Hands, was also a top donor.
ICNA continues to defend Jamaat-e-Islami from prosecution in Bangladesh. One of ICNA’s former secretary-generals, Ashrafuzzaman Khan, has been indicted in Bangladesh on war crimes charges. He continues to be an official for ICNA’s New York chapter.
Three questions remain:
1. From where did the former president of the Central Mosque of Charleston and his co-conspirators get the money to start the scheme?
2. How much money was made in the scheme before the authorities stopped them?
3. Where did the money go after being laundered through the conspirators’ businesses?
Ryan Mauro is the ClarionProject.org’s National Security Analyst, a fellow with the Clarion Project and is frequently interviewed on top-tier TV stations as an expert on counterterrorism and Islamic extremism.