A British man charged in the United States with trying to sell missiles to shoot down airliners will face additional counts of plotting to procure a “dirty bomb,” prosecutors said Thursday.
The man, Hemant Lakhani, 68, an Indian-born London arms dealer who was arrested in August in a FBI sting operation, was indicted to reflect new allegations that he offered to procure anti-aircraft guns, tanks, armored personnel carriers, radar systems and a dirty bomb, U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie of Newark said in a statement.
A dirty bomb is an unconventional device designed to spread radioactive or chemical agents.
Christie would not give details about the bomb. Lakhani’s lawyer could not be reached for comment.
Lakhani was charged with one count of attempting to provide material support to terrorists, which carries a maximum 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The indictment includes other charges carrying possible prison terms of two to 20 years.
Customer was FBI informer
Lakhani, who has been in jail since his Aug. 12 arrest at a hotel near Newark International Airport, was charged with trying to sell a shoulder-fired missile imported from Russia to an FBI informer. He will appear in court in the coming days, the prosecutor said.
“I feel more strongly today than I did in August that the arrest of Mr. Lakhani has made the country a safer place,” Christie said at a news conference Thursday. “He was not just a businessman looking to make a buck. This was someone who believed that American citizens should be attacked and killed.”
New York jeweler Yehuda Abraham and Moinudden Ahmed Hameed were also charged in the case in August. Prosecutors described them as being financial middlemen who did not know the transactions involved illegal weapons.
Christie said Lakhani had also been accused of having told his intended purchaser, with whom he was arranging the sale of 50 more missiles, that the weapons could be used most effectively if 10 to 15 commercial aircraft were shot down simultaneously across the United States.
In an unrelated dirty bomb case, U.S. citizen Jose Padilla has been held for 18 months by the government, which said he plotted with the militant Islamic group al-Qaida to detonate a radioactive dirty bomb in the United States.
The two cases were not linked, but the prosecutor announced the new charges on the same day an appeals court ruled that Padilla could no longer be held incommunicado by the government as an enemy combatant.