Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers removed a Pakistani national who conspired to launder terrorist financing, marking the agency’s latest “high-profile removal.”
Saifullah Anjum Ranjha, a 53-year-old Pakistani national who served the past eight years in prison, was placed into a deportation flight at the San Antonio International Airport on Monday,according toa press release from the agency. ICE’s Enforcement Removal officers escorted Ranjha and ultimately handed him over to Pakistani authorities in Islamabad.
Ranjha, a former business owner in Washington, D.C., who held legal permanent status in the United States, pleaded guilty in 2008 to laundering more than $2.2 million in funds that he believed were the proceeds of illegal activities by al-Qaida. His apprehension was part of a large-scale operation by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations that led to 42 arrests between 2008 and 2011.
The Pakistani national’s deportation was considered a “high-profile removal,” a special distinction given to national security threats, human rights violators and other foreign fugitives.
ICE Field Office Director, Enforcement and Removal Operations, David Marin and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Fugitive Operations team search for a Mexican national at a home in Hawthorne, California, U.S., March 1, 2020. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
“Aliens living in the United States, who are engaged in or suspected of supporting terrorism, are a direct threat to our country’s national security. As such, they are our highest priority for removal,” stated ICE Director Sarah R. Saldaña.
Saldaña continued: “As a law enforcement agency charged with protecting our homeland, ICE will continue to focus immigration enforcement efforts on national security, border security and public safety.”
Ranjha’s arrest in 2008 was the result of a years-long operation by the federal government.
At the direction of U.S. law enforcement, a cooperating witness presented himself to Ranjha as someone involved in international drug trafficking, and international smuggling of counterfeit cigarettes and weapons,according tothe Department of Justice. The witness also represented that he was providing financing to al-Qaida members and its associated organizations.
Ranhja used his money remitting business, Hamza, Inc., to illegally wire funds through an informal transfer system called “hawala” that does not rely on conventional banking regulations.
Between October 2003 and September 2007, the cooperating witness handed over $2,208,000 in government funds to Ranhja and his associates to be transferred abroad through the hawala system. Ranjha was under the impression that the funds would be used to support al-Qaida and other terrorist activities.
The Pakistani national’s deportation marked the latest significant removal by ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations unit.
ICE removed a total 351 individuals deemed as “high-profile removals” in 2019. Of them, 274 allegedly committed crimes abroad — including 20 alleged human rights violators and 54 individuals considered a threat to national security.