Pakistan quietly jails 26/11 handler Sajid Mir for 15 years in terror financing case

The Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) of the Punjab Police, which often issues convictions of the suspects in such cases to the media, did not notify Mir’s conviction.

Pakistani authorities had in the past claimed he had died, but Western countries remained unconvinced and demanded proof of his death.

Sajid Majeed Mir, one of India’s most wanted terrorists and the main handler of the deadly 2008 Mumbai attacks who was earlier declared dead by Pakistan, has been jailed for over 15 years in a terror-financing case by an anti-terrorism court in the country, which is struggling to exit the grey list of the FATF.

The Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) of the Punjab Police, which often issues convictions of the suspects in such cases to the media, did not notify Mir’s conviction.

His sentencing comes as Islamabad prepares for an on-site visit by the officials from the Paris-based global terror financing watchdog Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to verify the implementation of Pakistan’s relevant anti-money laundering and terrorism-financing reforms. A positive report may facilitate Pakistan’s exit from the grey list of the FATF.

“An anti-terrorism court in Lahore early this month had handed down 15 and a half years jail term to Sajid Majeed Mir, an activist of banned Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), in a terror-financing case,” a senior lawyer associated with terror financing cases of LeT and Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) leaders told PTI on Friday.

Besides, since it was an in-camera proceeding at the high-security jail, the media was not allowed.

The lawyer further said Mir has been in the Kot Lakhpat jail in Lahore since his arrest in April. He said the court also imposed a fine of over Rs 400,000 on the convict.

Pakistani authorities had in the past claimed he had died, but Western countries remained unconvinced and demanded proof of his death. This issue became a major sticking point in FATF’s assessment of Pakistan’s progress on the action plan late last year.

This was where things finally started moving in Mir’s case leading to his ‘arrest’, the Dawn newspaper reported on Saturday.

His conviction and sentencing were, therefore, major achievements that Pakistani officials showcased in their progress report given to FATF on its action plan during the latest plenary, the paper commented.

It indeed helped in convincing FATF members that Pakistan had finished all the required tasks, it added.

Mir, 44, is on the FBI’s list of most-wanted terrorists. the US has placed a bounty of USD 5 million for his role in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.

Mir is on India’s most-wanted list for his role in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks that left 166 people dead, including six Americans.

Before the last meeting of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Pakistan reportedly told the agency that it had arrested and prosecuted Sajid Mir in order to seek its removal from the global anti-laundering body’s ‘Grey list’.

Mir was called the “project manager” of the Mumbai attacks. Mir reportedly had visited India in 2005 using a fake passport with a fake name.

The FBI says that “Mir is wanted for his alleged involvement in the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India. Beginning on November 26, 2008, and continuing through November 29, 2008, ten LeT attackers carried out a series of coordinated attacks against multiple targets in Mumbai, including hotels, cafes, and a train station, killing approximately 170 people.” “Six Americans were killed during the three-day attacks. Mir allegedly served as the chief planner of the attacks, directing preparations and reconnaissance, and was one of the Pakistan-based controllers during the attacks. Additionally, Mir allegedly conspired to commit a terrorist attack against a newspaper and its employees in Denmark between 2008 and 2009,” it said.

“Mir was indicted in the US District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, Chicago, Illinois, on April 21, 2011, and was charged with conspiracy to injure the property of a foreign government; providing material support to terrorists; killing a citizen outside of the US and aiding and abetting; and bombing of places of public use. An arrest warrant was issued on April 22, 2011,” it said.

Mumbai terror attacks’ alleged mastermind and JuD chief Hafiz Saeed has already been sentenced to 68 years imprisonment in terror financing cases by the Lahore anti-terrorism court.

The sentence is running concurrently, which means he will not have to spend many years in jail.

Mumbai attack operation commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi is also sentenced to several years in jail. Both Saeed and LeT militant Abdul Rehman Makki are also in Kot Lapkhapt jail in Lahore.

Saeed, a UN-designated terrorist on whom the US has placed a USD 10 million bounty, was arrested in July 2019 in the terror financing cases.

Saeed-led JuD is the front organisation for the LeT which is responsible for carrying out the 2008 Mumbai attack.

The US Department of the Treasury has designated Saeed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist.

The global terror financing watchdog Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is instrumental in pushing Islamabad to take measures against terrorists roaming freely in Pakistan and using its territory to carry out attacks in India.

The FATF had placed Pakistan on the grey list in June 2018 and asked Islamabad to implement a plan of action to curb money laundering.

Last week, the FATF said Pakistan will continue to be on the “Grey List” of countries under increased monitoring, a statement from the global money-laundering and terror-financing watchdog said on June 17.

It said Pakistan may be removed from the list after an on-site visit to verify the implementation of its reforms on countering terror-financing mechanisms.

Pakistan has so far avoided being on the black list with the help of its close allies like China, Turkey and Malaysia.

The FATF is an inter-governmental body established in 1989 to combat money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system.

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