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From Beirut, former Waltham couple sue to have government drop them from list of 'mass proliferators of weapons of mass destruction'

In 2018, a federal grand jury indicted Antoine Ajaka and Anni Beurklian on charges of violating US export laws for allegedly smuggling potential IED components to a Beirut supplier to the Syrian government, which wanted them for explosives used against US soldiers and allies in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Not long after, the government got an order in US District Court in Boston preventing the couple from profiting from the potential sale of their house on Juniper Hill Road in Waltham - in its request, prosecutors said they didn't object to them selling the house, but asked a judge to order that the estimated $1.2 million proceeds go into a government escrow fund rather than to the couple. Three months later, the Treasury Department put them on its Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List as "proliferators of weapons of mass destruction," a listing that legally prevents US citizens from doing any business with them. The Waltham city tax collector has since "seized" the house for non-payment of taxes.

But from Beirut, Ajaka and Beurklian are fighting back. Their American attorney has filed suit in federal court in Washington against the Treasury Department, requesting that a judge order the government to take them off the list, which could lead to the unfreezing of their assets in the US, including their house.

At issue is their relationship with Electronic Katrangi Trading (EKT), a Syrian-based company with an office in Beirut that has been on a US government list since 2007 of entities Americans are not legally allowed to do business with because of its alleged involvement with the Syrian military.

An affidavit filed recently by a Homeland Security agent seeking the seizure of EKT's Web and mail server - which EKT had hosted at an ISP in New Jersey - gives examples of how the Waltham couple allegedly procured and shipped equipment to Syria via EKT, including EKT's purchase of remote-control modules and toggle switches, despite the federal ban on doing business with the company without first getting permission from the Department of Commerce, which the government says the couple never did.

Beurklian fulfilled the orders. She avoided obtaining a license to export to EKT by indicating, falsely, that the purchaser of the modules was E-Move FZ CO, and shipping the modules to Dubai. Dubai is a known transshipment point. She shipped the switches to Polo Trading in Lebanon, a company Katranji founded in 2013 and used as a shell company for EKT. ...

Another example took place or about June 9, 2016. Katranji had had previously tasked Beurklian with the purchase and export of 3D printers and computer equipment. In connection with this export, on or about June 8, 2016, Katranji advised Beurklian via WhatsApp that they needed to change the name of the end user on the shipping paperwork to "Amirco Electronics" because the previous listed end user had problems in Egypt, and EKT needed to switch the name. At this same time, Beurklian received an email from Sana Katranji using the email [email protected]. In this email, Sana stated, "Concerning this printer, its urgent to change the consignee to AMIRCO ELECTRONICS." After this email, Beurklian changed the name of the end user, concealing the actual end user's true identity in violation of U.S. export laws. The address listed for the ultimate consignee on this shipment is the same address for Al Amir Electronics, which EKT identified as a branch of EKT on its website. Both Amirco and Al Amir are known to be owned and operated by EKT.

In his request to have their designation as "proliferators of weapons of mass destruction lifted," the couple's attorney, James Bacon of Fairfax, VA, says the government violated the couple's constitutional rights by sanctioning them based on scant evidence - an indictment and a press release - and by refusing to grant them due process by delaying action on their request for detailed documentation of the allegations and giving them a chance to respond to those allegations.

As an example, Bacon says the e-mails cited by the government should have been included in the "scant" 81 pages of the government finally provided after he filed the suit, but weren't.

Affidavit to seize EKT servers (5.9M PDF).
Indictment (1.4M PDF).
Writ to block proceeds of house sale (289k PDF).
Complaint to delist couple (334k PDF).

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Comments

So when does Lowe's get indicted?

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Voting closed 14

He blew the building up with ammonium nitrate mixed with fuel oil. Trade name ANFO. They don't sell that at Home Depot.

Lowes, on the other hand...um, nope.

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Voting closed 8

Go Google it. We'll wait ...

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Voting closed 11

I know exactly what ammonium nitrate is. I also know what ANFO is. It comes in bags that look like bags of Portland cement only surrounded by important paperwork.

It ain't fertilizer. It could be, on a commercial scale, but sorry, not for you. It's not for sale at Lowes. What you're mistakenly thinking of is ammonium sulfate. It'll make your roses explode in a burst of color, but if you mix it in a proper ratio (found easily online, please google it) with a certain type of oil, you will just get a not very flammable mess that even Clean Harbors won't be happy with.

Sorry about the delay. Hope you didn't wait too long.

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Voting closed 11

Seems like they sold a bunch of remote control "toggle" switches (not sure how remote control, it wasn't a piece of string) to people without getting proper paperwork.
"... despite the federal ban on doing business with the company without first getting permission from the Department of Commerce, which the government says the couple never did."

So, Feds have it pretty much surrounded, grab their gains from the house.

Sounds pretty cut and dried to me.

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Where did Jim get the retainer? How does a "Waltham couple" connect with an attorney in Fairfax, VA?

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The Treasury Department is in Washington, so it makes sense you'd sue there, and it makes sense you'd want a lawyer there who is familiar with that particular federal court and with export regulations, in a way that your basic Boston or Waltham attorney would not be.

As for how the "Waltham couple" would know to hire this particular guy, don't know, but they ran their own export business (out of their house, for what it's worth, although I didn't mention that in my post, I admit), which means they, too, would need to have the sort of familiarity with export regulations that the average person wouldn't, so it's really not too big a leap to think they'd be familiar with lawyers who specialize in that area.

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Voting closed 8

In the early 90's a Irish co worker, invited me to a fund raiser at a bar in Fields Corner. Everyone there was very open about the fact that the money raised was to spent on weapons in Ireland.

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