Jury Convicts Two Men of Trying to Ship Toxic Waste to Pakistan
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Two men were found guilty of trying to ship toxic waste to Pakistan to save thousands of dollars in disposal costs by dumping it down mine shafts, prosecutors said.
Tariq Ahmad, 33, and Rafat Asrar, 38, were convicted Thursday by a jury of violating the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.
Prosecutors said the two set fire to Shankman Laboratories, which they owned, on Nov. 30, 1989, staging the blaze to appear accidental so they could collect $205,306 in fire insurance.
After the fire, Ahmad took the company’s hazardous chemicals to another Los Angeles company that lacked a permit to store the material.
The chemicals, packed in hundreds of improperly labeled containers, were put aboard a ship for Pakistan, but without Pakistani approval, said David W. Wilma, special agent in charge of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Los Angeles office.
The hazardous waste, including cyanide, arsenic and mercury, was seized at a port in Dubai, returned to Los Angeles and properly disposed of.
″Ahmad intended to dump the 27 55-gallon drums of hazardous waste down mine shafts in Pakistan, owned by Ahmad and his family,″ said Stephen A. Mansfield, an assistant U.S. attorney.
It would have cost Ahmad $80,000 to legally get rid of the waste in the United States, while the cost of exporting it to Pakistan was only $1,800, Mansfield said.
Ahmad, who lives in Reno, Nev., and Asrar, from Irvine, also were convicted of arson, conspiracy to commit arson, mail fraud and perjury. Ahmad also was convicted of money laundering.
Ahmad faces a maximum sentence of 115 years in prison and $4.5 million in fines. Asrar could be sentenced to 55 years in prison and $2.5 million in fines. U.S. District Judge Ronald S.W. Lew ordered the two into custody pending sentencing.
The waste, if it had been dumped into the ground, ″would severely contaminate underground drinking water supplies and seriously endanger human health,″ Mansfield said.