Bin Laden son-in-law's US lawyer indicted on tax charges

Bin Laden son-in-law's US lawyer indicted on tax charges
An artist sketch shows Suleiman Abu Ghaith, a militant who appeared in videos as a spokesman for al Qaeda after the September 11, 2001 attacks, appearing at the U.S. District Court in Manhattan from March 8, 2013.

NEW YORK - Federal prosecutors on Wednesday indicted a lawyer for Suleiman Abu Ghaith, a son-in-law of Osama bin Laden, for failing to report more than US$3 million (S$3.7 million) in income to the Internal Revenue Service.

The six-count indictment brought by the Manhattan US Attorney's office said the income represented unreported legal fees paid to the lawyer, Stanley L. Cohen, between 2005 and 2010.

Cohen, 63, was also charged with scheming to defraud New York state tax authorities for failing to report and trying to hide his income, prosecutors said in a statement.

Cohen, who refers to himself as a political activist, told clients to pay him in cash, stored portions of the cash in a safety deposit box rather than in a bank account, and directed clients to pay fees by wire transfers routed to pay his American Express credit card bill, prosecutors said.

He was charged with five counts of failing to file US individual income tax returns and one count of wire fraud. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.

"As alleged, Stanley Cohen instructed his clients to pay him in cash, and then stockpiled the money he received in legal fees in order to avoid paying his fair share in taxes," Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.

In 2012, Cohen was indicted in the Northern District of New York on one count of obstructing and impeding the Internal Revenue Service and two counts of causing the failure to file required reports.

In an email on Wednesday, Cohen said he was "fully confident that I will be vindicated and see today's 'new' counts as a continuation of a DOJ (US Department of Justice) vendetta directed at me for my many years of challenging them at home and abroad."

Abu Ghaith, one the highest-ranking al Qaeda figures to face trial in the United States for crimes related to the September 11, 2001, attacks, has pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiring to kill Americans. His trial is set to begin on Jan. 21.

In May, US District Judge Lewis Kaplan, who is presiding over Abu Ghaith's case, unsuccessfully urged him to replace Cohen because he was under investigation by the Manhattan US Attorney's Office, which Kaplan said could pose a conflict for Cohen.

Abu Ghaith, however, repeatedly refused to replace Cohen.

Cohen is expected to appear before US District Judge Paul Englemayer in Manhattan federal court next week, according to a statement from the Manhattan US Attorney's Office.

A hearing is scheduled for Abu Ghaith's case on Monday in the same courthouse.

The cases are United States of America v. Stanley L. Cohen, US District Court for the Southern District of New York, (Case number not available), and United States of America v. Stanley L. Cohen, US District Court for the Northern District of New York No. 12-cr-00316.

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