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U.S. Witness Failed to Reveal 1999 Holdup

November 07, 2001|Associated Press

The government's chief witness in a recent terrorism trial failed to disclose that he had tried to rob a Montreal currency exchange to raise money for terrorist operations, court papers show.

Ahmed Ressam was convicted in April in Los Angeles for his role in a failed plot linked to the 2000 millennium celebrations. He became the key witness in the trial at which co-conspirator Mokhtar Haouari was convicted in New York in July. He could face 50 years in prison.

In an Oct. 17 letter to the judge, prosecutors said Ressam told them about the attempted robbery only after Haouari's trial.

A lawyer for Haouari said Monday that he would seek a new trial. U.S. District Judge John Keenan postponed Haouari's sentencing, which was scheduled for this week, until Dec. 17 to allow his lawyer to pursue the new trial request.

In his testimony, Ressam had said he wanted to rob a currency exchange, but never said he had actually attempted the crime, prosecutors said. Ressam has now admitted that in August 1999 he tried to rob a Montreal currency exchange with a pistol, but he struggled with someone inside and fled without firing the gun or getting any money, prosecutors said.

Criminal defendants who become cooperating witnesses are supposed to admit their past criminal activity to the government. Prosecutors must provide such information to the defense, which may use it to attack the witnesses' credibility.

Prosecutors would not comment on the disclosure.

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