The Abdullahi Case: Terrorist Financing in Canada - and Prosecution in the United States
The case of Abdullahi Ahmed Abdullahi
When we think about terrorist financing in Canada, we usually think about terrorist financing charges, or perhaps about the listing of terrorist entities. However, in a number of cases, Canadians have undertaken financing and facilitation activities and have not faced charges in Canada - but have instead faced charges in the US. The case of Abdullahi Ahmed Abdullahi is one such case.
According to a US indictment, Abdullahi Ahmed Abdullahi has been charged with providing material support to terrorists. The RCMP arrested Abdullahi on 15 September 2017 following a US extradition request. According to the US indictment, "Abdullahi committed an armed robbery of a jewelry store for the purpose of financing the travel and efforts of co-conspirators in supporting and joining terrorist fighters engaged in terrorist activity in Syria...".
Abdullahi sent funds through Western Union to San Diego, and those funds were used to pay for flights to Turkey for friends / cousins (including the late Douglas McCain) who left the US in March 2014. Abdullahi and his accomplices sent around $3,000 to McCain, and Abdullahi also wired money to Gaziantep to support the individuals who travelled to join ISIL.
The jewelry store owners allege that Abdullahi and his accomplices stole between $10,000 and $20,000 worth of gold rings and pendants. Abdullahi reportedly had difficulty pawning the jewelry.
Abdullahi’s extradition order was upheld by the Alberta Court of Appeal. Abdullahi was extradited to the United States in October of 2019, and pled not guilty in February 2020 in a California court. On December 17, 2021, Abdullahi pleaded guilty to material support charges.
While jewelry theft is relatively uncommon in Canada in terms of funding terrorism, it is common for terrorists and extremist travellers to fund their activities through small-scale criminal activity. It is far less common for people to be charged with terrorist financing offences in Canada - only two successful prosecutions have taken place to date. The extradition to the United States is of interest in this case - the alleged material support (or, in Canada’s language, financing and facilitation activities) all took place in Canada and could constitute a crime under section 83.03 of the Criminal Code.
It’s unclear why Canadian and US authorities decided to pursue the case in the United States rather than in Canada. However, this may have something to do with the nature of the evidence to be presented, how it was collected, and if Canadian courts would have required the disclosure of sources / methods (part of the intelligence to evidence problem). As of February 26, 2021, Abdullahi was still awaiting trial.