Ex-Rahm aide Amer Ahmad jailed by Pakistani authorities

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Pakistani authorities said Wednesday they have jailed and intend to charge Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s former city comptroller Amer Ahmad after taking him into custody Monday with a fake Mexican passport, a forged visa to enter their country and a large amount of cash. Ahmad was carrying about $176,000 and 124,000 euros in cash when he was stopped by authorities Monday morning at the international airport in Lahore, said Usman Anwar,  the Punjab region director for the Federal Investigation Agency, the Pakistani equivalent of the FBI.“He said he that he lived in America and lied that he never had American nationality,” Anwar told the Chicago Sun-Times from the FIA’s offices in Lahore.

“He said he came home to Pakistan and didn’t say he was involved in fraud or anything,” Anwar said. “We Googled him.”

The Internet search turned up articles about Ahmad’s corruption conviction in Ohio, where he was deputy state treasurer before joining the Emanuel administration in 2011.

Ahmad, 39, has pleaded guilty in that case. Federal authorities in Ohio obtained a warrant Friday for his arrest for violating the terms of his release on bail. Ahmad had been free pending his sentencing and had continued to live in Chicago since resigning from his $165,000-a-year City Hall post last summer.

His wife, Samar Ahmad, got a Cook County judge to issue an emergency order of protection last week against her husband, saying he had been physically abusive to her and had asked her to help him get “a fake birth certificate from Pakistan for a passport” so he could flee to that country, according to court records.

“I am very concerned that he will kidnap our children and take them to Pakistan,” Samar Ahmad wrote, according to court records obtained by the Sun-Times. “He believes that [he] is not guilty and deserves a life with the children.”

Ahmad grew up in Ohio in a Pakistani immigrant family, and his wife also has roots in Pakistan.

According to Anwar, Ahmad succeeded in buying a fake Mexican passport in the name of Faisal Samee and flew overseas from Mexico. He eventually arrived in Lahore on an Emirates Airlines flight from Dubai.

Anwar said Ahmad is being held in Lahore pending the completion of an investigation by his agency, which polices Pakistan’s borders. Ahmad has appeared before a judge there, and authorities in Pakistan intend to hold him for two weeks as they prepare charges. 

“We are going to prosecute him under our laws,” Anwar said.

He said Ahmad could face a prison term of up to 14 years under an anti-money-laundering statute and another seven years for using fake documents, though the maximum sentence is rarely imposed.

Ahmad already was looking at a prison sentence in the United States of as long as 15 years and paying restitution of $3.2 million for his crimes in Ohio.

U.S. authorities declined to comment.

Anwar said the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan must ask officials there for Ahmad’s extradition.

Pakistani authorities have seized the cash that Ahmad brought to Lahore.

“It’s been put in the national treasury,” Anwar said. “If he proves his ownership of the money, that it was legally and lawfully earned, it will be returned to him, or else it will be confiscated.”

Ahmad pleaded guilty in December to being part of a large kickback and money-laundering scheme when he was Ohio’s deputy state treasurer. 

Though he remainded free on bail after his guilty plea, he was forced to surrender his U.S. passport.

An outside investigation that City Hall commissioned to review Ahmad’s conduct in Chicago revealed no criminal wrongdoing by Ahmad or his city staff. That investigation cost Chicago taxpayers $825,000.

Asked about the arrest of a man who was once a key member of his financial team, Emanuel said he’d heard about it but had more important things on his mind.

“I was thinking about plastic bags before Amer,” Emanuel said. “I was thinking of the petcoke regulations before Amer. I was thinking about how proud we all are of the Whitney Young basketball team and their accomplishments on the court and in the classroom, the kids from Marshall High School who won the chess championship, about … the 82 percent” graduation rate soon to be achieved by the Chicago Public Schools. “That all came before that, to give you some sense of perspective on it.”

Pressed on whether he felt any embarrassment that Ahmad was once a rising store in his administration, Emanuel said, “No. No.”

Ahmad pleaded guilty in December to federal conspiracy and bribery charges, admitting he used his Ohio government position to secure “lucrative state business” for Douglas Hampton — his high school classmate and financial adviser — “in exchange for payments” to himself and others.

In his plea agreement, Ahmad said Hampton made secret payments to him, and, as Ohio’s deputy treasurer, he steered state securities brokerage work to Hampton.

Prosecutors said Ahmad and a business partner — Joseph M. Chiavaroli, also of Chicago — hid those payments by passing them through an Ohio landscaping company they owned.

Hampton also funneled cash to Mohammed Noure Alo, an attorney, lobbyist and close friend of Ahmad from Columbus. Altogether, Hampton got about $3.2 million in commissions for 360 trades on behalf of the Ohio state treasurer’s office. Ahmad and his co-conspirators — who have all pleaded guilty — got more than $500,000 from Hampton, according to prosecutors.

Contributing: Fran Spielman

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