CONTROVERSIAL Jamaican-born Muslim cleric Sheikh Abdullah al-Faisal has distanced himself from an Afghan-American businessman who was arrested at the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston last week Tuesday after he tried to enter the island with a large sum of Euro and United States notes.
The man, Sohail Muhammad Siddiq, was yesterday formally charged with breaches of the Customs and Proceeds of Crime Acts. He is scheduled to appear in the Corporate Area Criminal Court today.
According to the police, Siddiq arrived on a flight from Panama, en route from Dubai. "During routine security checks, his luggage was searched and ¤313,500 along with US$700 were found," the Constabulary Communication Network said in a release last night.
It was earlier reported that Siddiq told the police that the money was to be used to buy cellphones in Jamaica. He had reportedly travelled to Dubai, Afghanistan, and South Africa prior to his trip to the island.
The investigation, which is ongoing, is being carried out jointly by members of the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Task Force, the Financial Investigation Division, and Customs Contraband Enforcement Team.
There has been heightened interest into Siddiq's visit here. He has already been questioned about suspected links with terrorist groups in Africa and the Middle East.
On Monday, al-Faisal denied knowing the businessman.
"I do not know him. I was not expecting anyone," he told the Jamaica Observer.
Al-Faisal has been on an international watch list following his deportation to Jamaica in May 2007 after spending four years in a British prison for allegedly preaching messages of hate. He had been living in the United Kingdom for 26 years.
He was the first person in more than a century to have been convicted under Britain's 1861 Offences Against the Person Act in 2003, after he was found guilty of 'soliciting murder causing racial hatred'.
He has also been accused of doctrinating Richard Reid, who tried to set off a bomb concealed in his shoe while travelling on an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami in 2001, as well as Jermaine Lindsay who as responsible for the 2005 underground train bombing in London in which he and 26 others died. He is also said to have inspired Faisal Shazad, whose attempt to bomb Times Square in 2010 failed.
In 2010, al-Faisal was accused by the Kenyan authorities of sneaking into the east African country. He was arrested, a move which triggered deadly riots that lasted well over a week. The Kenyan Government later spent nearly US$500,000 to transport al-Faisal back to Jamaica.
On Monday, the Sheikh told the Observer that he was "cautious" when it comes to associating himself with young people.
"Young people; they are very dangerous to be in contact with. They do things and try to associate themselves with your name," he said.