updated 8/10/2004 6:15:30 PM ET 2004-08-10T22:15:30

Federal officials charged a Pakistani citizen with immigration violations and said Tuesday the man was detained last month after being spotted taking videotapes of downtown skyscrapers.

Kamran Akhtar was arrested July 20 after being taken in for questioning by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer Anthony Maglione. Charges against him were contained in indictments unsealed in federal court Tuesday.

Akhtar, 36, is charged with violating federal immigration and naturalization laws and making a false statement, according to a news release by U.S. Attorney Gretchen Shappert.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Carl Horn ordered Akhtar held in federal custody at a brief hearing Tuesday morning in federal court. He had been in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

He was being held Tuesday at the Mecklenburg County Jail.

According to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Darrell Stephens, Akhtar told Maglione at the time of his arrest that he was making videotapes for family members.

“This is one that will require more investigation, to determine just what he was doing with these tapes,” Stephens said.

Mayor Pat McCrory said Charlotte residents and workers in the city’s busy financial district, which is home to two of the nation’s top five bank headquarters, should not alter their routine.

“People working in the center city should continue to go to work and go on with their everyday actions,” McCrory said.

Taped headquarters of major banks
A federal affidavit unsealed Tuesday said a review of the tape in Akhtar’s camera and others in his possession showed film of the downtown Wachovia Bank and Bank of America headquarters buildings. Calls to Bank of America and Wachovia were not immediately returned Tuesday.

There also were pictures from other major U.S. cities, including Atlanta, New Orleans, Dallas, Houston and Austin, Texas. According to an affidavit by John Scott Sherrill, a federal immigration agent, Akhtar’s videotapes showed what appeared to be the Mansfield Dam in Austin and public transportation systems in several cities.

Maglione said Akhtar behaved suspiciously when the officer approached to ask him what he was doing as he filmed with his video camera around noon on a weekday.

The officer described Akhtar’s actions as “evasive” and said the suspect walked away when he tried to approach.

“His statements were all over the place, from taking these videos for his brother to visiting around town,” Maglione said. “He said he had to hurry up and get back to the bus station” even though Akhtar was headed away from the downtown bus terminal.

Stephens said police did not publicize the arrest while they tried to determine whether Akhtar was simply a tourist.

Had applied for political asylum
According to court documents, Akhtar was asked about his immigration status and allegedly said he had a “green card” that his wife had obtained for him in 1997. A review of his immigration file indicated he had no green card, which signifies permanent residence status, and was in the country illegally. He applied for political asylum in 1992 and was denied in 1997.

Last week, federal officials issued urgent terror warnings, saying they had uncovered information in Pakistan that indicated five financial institutions in New York, Washington and Newark, N.J., were potential targets.

Bush administration officials have said a new stream of intelligence has indicated al-Qaida wants to strike financial institutions.

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