The Magazine

The Mosque and the Imam

Washington's Islamic Center is riven by scandal and lawsuits.

Dec 1, 2008, Vol. 14, No. 11 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
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Improbably, the government argued that Bank of America, which honored more than 200 checks, totaling $430,000 from 2000 to 2006, submitted and supposedly altered by Darui, never detected such tampering. The government presented not original checks but Xerox copies as evidence at the trial. Court filings revealed that on some of the cashed checks notations in the memo line stated that their purpose was to pay for housing, rent, and similar expenses seemingly inconsistent with the payee line.

To cite but one of 23 Xeroxed checks entered into evidence and originally written to pay Estrada's rent, a check dated August 15, 2002, showed the payee as "Travelers," an insurance company. The copy furnished by Bank of America had the payee as "Zaal, Inc." The memo line on both included the word "Housing," a peculiar basis for payment to an insurance company.

During the trial, Khouj testified that in 2003-04 he donated his newly declared salary of $2,563 per month to the mosque. But defense lawyers showed that Khouj had deposited all 24 bimonthly checks from the period to his personal account. Khouj told the FBI that Darui had cashed two checks issued to Khouj by the Saudi embassy. The defense produced deposit slips showing that those two checks also had been deposited to Khouj's account.

In May of this year, the first prosecution of Darui ended in a mistrial. But the U.S. authorities refiled the case. DiGenova & Toensing then filed a post-mistrial brief alleging that the Saudis and Khouj, rather than the defendant, had altered the checks, perhaps by using Photoshop technology. The defense lawyers further charged that Khouj had committed many acts of perjury and obstruction of justice in the case. All of the foregoing is documented in public court filings.

Khouj's secretary at the mosque, Fatoumata Goodwin, did not respond to an email request for comment on the case. The question remains: Why should the U.S. government side with a Wahhabi cleric and the Saudi reactionaries, with their long career of contempt for American morality and law, in a manner that seems to impeach the competence of a leading American bank, while persecuting an opponent of radical Islam?

Stephen Schwartz is a frequent contributor to THE WEEKLY STANDARD.