Adapted from a Digital Journal report by Adil James, MMNS
Dearborn–August 29–Life is difficult for LIFE, these days.
In the wake of the Mabarrat and GCO raids earlier this month, it would be easy to forget about another Islamic charity that went through an investigation very similar to that of Mabarrat–almost exactly one year ago.
Life for Relief and Development, during a September 18 morning meeting in 2006, was swarmed by FBI and IRS agents who combed their offices, taking computers and servers, and taking company documents that until today remain in the possession of the government. The FBI, in concert with the IRS, initiated synchronized raids against the home of Dr. Khalil Jassemm (President and CEO of Life), the Life offices, and two Life board membersâ€™ homes (one in Ann Arbor and the other in Minneapolis).
Ironically, FBI officials were at pains to mention that Life was not under investigation for terrorism-related charges, and yet they asked many questions of Life officials regarding their relations with Iraq.
After searching the offices, the FBI team seized computers and paperwork. The computers were returned shortly thereafter, but the papers, until today, are in the possession of the federal government.
The IRS presence and some statements of the investigators indicated it was a tax-related issue, but â€œDigital Journal,â€ an online media outlet, is inferring an investigational link to Lifeâ€™s activities in Iraq.
TMO attempted to contact Life before filing this report but their press relations department did not return our calls.
A federal judge ruled August 23rd that the U.S. government must split the cost of photocopying records that were seized last September from the Muslim charity, Life for Relief and Development.
So far, the FBI had refused to copy and return the paper records, unless the charity can pay for the cost of the copying.
The FBI told Life for Relief if they wanted to get the paper records back they would have a copying bill for between $21,000 to $115,000, in regards to how many of the seized records they wanted back. The copy fees were quite high because the FBI demanded that a copying company with security clearance must be used.
Life for Relief needs the financial and personnel records back so they can file their tax return, complete audits, manage personnel matters, and perform other functions.
U.S. District Judge Nancy G. Edmunds ruled,
â€œThis doesnâ€™t take legal genius to work through. The charity â€œis entitled to get certainly their financial and employee records back and they should not have to bear the cost, at least not the entire cost.â€
Edmunds is making the charity and FBI negotiate which records need copying and then they will have to split the cost. The Kinkoâ€™s in the non-classified section of the FBI headquarters will be used, which will now greatly lower the cost from what the FBI was insisting on before.
â€œCopying only the financial records should cost about $7,200, said Michael Taxay of the U.S. Department of Justice National Security Division in Washington, D.C. Copying the personnel records should cost less than that, he said.â€
The lawyer for the Muslim charity said the compromise was satisfactory to his client.
Although no one has been arrested or charged with committing a crime as of yet, the FBI is still investigating and will need to keep the records they seized. Taxay from the Justice Department said eleven months was not a big amount of time for the â€œsize and scope of the investigation.â€
Life for Relief describes itself on its site as the largest US Muslim relief organization, founded in â€˜92 in response to the crisis in Iraq following the 1991 Gulf War.