Mosque Bookkeeper Alleges Payments to Director's Mistresses

The Islamic Center of Washington is at the center of a federal embezzlement case.
The Islamic Center of Washington is at the center of a federal embezzlement case. (By Sarah L. Voisin -- The Washington Post)

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By Michelle Boorstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 16, 2007

A man charged with embezzling $430,000 from a prominent Washington mosque said in court documents filed yesterday that the mosque's director was actually paying him for rent and other expenses for the director's mistresses.

The motions were part of the defense's argument in the federal government's case against Farzad Darui, a former manager at the Islamic Center of Washington, the city's oldest mosque and a landmark on Embassy Row. Darui has been indicted for allegedly taking checks that he was supposed to use to pay the mosque's regular bills and directing them instead toward his own private businesses.

Darui's motions, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, ask that five of the seven counts against him be dismissed. The motions argue that the indictment is too vague and does not provide specific details to back up its charges, such as naming vendors and specifying which checks are being referred to.

"The indictment has been drafted in such a manner that Mr. Darui is unable intelligently to defend himself against allegations," one motion says.

The 140 pages filed by Darui's attorneys describe him as a patriot who was trying to keep extremists from seizing control of the mosque, whose board is made up largely of ambassadors from various Islamic countries. Darui says in motions that he was being pressured by Saudi funders of the center and its director, Abdullah M. Khouj, to allow in "individuals who adhered to a radical form" of Islam.

"For over 25 years Farzad Darui . . . has been dedicated to preventing radical fundamentalists from taking over Washington D.C.'s Islamic Center," one of the briefs begins.

Khouj's assistant yesterday said he declined to comment because he had not seen the new filings. A call to the center's attorney was not returned.

According to Darui's filings, the Saudi government was funneling money secretly to Khouj. The filings don't explicitly give a reason but assert a Saudi desire to control the influential mosque. The briefs say that Khouj used some of the money to pay for housing for two mistresses in apartments Darui owned and other expenses for the women, which is Darui's explanation of why checks to Darui's companies have Khouj's signature.

Calls to the Saudi Embassy went unanswered yesterday afternoon.

The center had filed a lawsuit against Darui in September, leveling similar charges of embezzlement. A federal judge dismissed that suit in December.

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