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FBI- Man lying about kidnapping

Sunday, February 22, 2004

BANGOR, Maine -- An investment banker accused of making a phone call that triggered the diversion of a Morocco-bound jetliner was charged Friday with making false statements to the FBI.

Zubair Ali Ghias told investigators he phoned his family after boarding the plane Thursday to say he had been kidnapped in Chicago by Arabs who forced him to travel to New York and board the plane, according to an FBI affidavit.

Ghias, 27, who had been reported missing Monday, eventually admitted making up the story, saying he made the "rash decision" to "get away from everything" after getting into a fight with his wife, the document said.

The Transportation Security Administration reportedly learned while the Royal Air Maroc flight was still in the air that "a male passenger phoned his wife from the plane and stated he was going to blow it up."

FBI spokesman Ross Rice, however, said there was no terrorist threat against the flight, which was diverted to Bangor about four hours after it took off from New York. Ghias told the FBI he did not identify his kidnappers as terrorists when he called his family.

The plane left for Casablanca again Friday and landed there safely.

Ghias was ordered held without bail pending a hearing Monday in federal court. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison, federal prosecutors said.

A second man detained from the flight was identified by a federal immigration official as Ahmed Bhiksi, a Moroccan who was in the process of being deported from the United States. Paula Grenier, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman, would not say why Bhiksi was being deported.

He left the plane with the other passengers while Bangor police searched for a bomb, but he was detained after he balked at getting back on, Grenier said.

Bangor police Sgt. James Owens said Ghias and Bhiksi were seated together on the plane, but Grenier said it was coincidence that the men were on the same flight.

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Associated Press writer Sara Leitch contributed to this report.


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