US charges two citizens, one Pakistani with moving US currency to Iran, Khamenei

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Two American citizens and one Pakistani national have been charged with federal crimes by the US Justice Department on Wednesday for moving US currency to Iran on behalf of the Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader in 2018 and 2019.

Muzzamil Zaidi, 36, a US citizen who resides in Qom, Iran, was charged with acting in the United States as an agent of the government of Iran without first notifying the Attorney General. Zaidi, Asim Naqvi, 36, another US citizen who lives in Houston, Texas, and Ali Chawla, 36, a Pakistani national who lives in Qom, Iran, were all charged with violations of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.


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Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a televised speech. (Reuters)
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a televised speech. (Reuters)

“The complaint alleges that both charges stem from the defendants’ campaign to transport US currency from the United States to Iran on behalf of the Supreme Leader of Iran in 2018 and 2019. Both Zaidi and Naqvi were arrested in Houston,” according to a statement from the Department of Justice.

According to an affidavit in support of the criminal complaint against the defendants, Zaidi offered his services to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in or around July 2015 and said that he could serve the “Islamic Republic in the socio-political or another field.”

Zaidi is reported to have traveled to Syria sometime in June 2018 and then flew to an “active war zone” in an armed Iranian military or intelligence aircraft.

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“This case is significant on many levels. To begin, as alleged in the criminal complaint, the defendants have considerable operational links to the IRGC, which has conducted multiple terrorist operations throughout the world over the past several years. The life-blood of these terrorist operations is cash – and the defendants played a key role in facilitating that critical component,” said Michael R. Sherwin, Acting United States Attorney for the District of Columbia.

The criminal complaint alleges that a letter Zaidi also received permission Khamenei to spend khums (religious tax) money in Yemen. Prior to his move to the United States beginning June 2020, Zaidi also spent time at an IRGC Quds Force base.

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