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Prosecutors talk to fugitive's attorney

An attorney for a fugitive charged in a nationwide sweep of financial networks with alleged ties to terrorists met Friday with federal prosecutors regarding his client's return from Canada.

Sam Osagiede said prosecutors told him that Liban Hussein, currently living in Ottawa, would be taken into custody as soon as he crossed the border. He said prosecutors also told him that Hussein should surrender.

Liban and Mohamed Hussein, brothers from Somalia with Canadian citizenship, face federal charges of operating a money transfer operation without a state license. Mohamed Hussein, the treasurer at Barakaat North America Inc., was arrested Wednesday at the company's Boston office.

Neither man has been charged with terrorist activities.

Attorney General John Ashcroft called the Boston business and others around the country "offices" of the al-Barakaat network, one of two organizations on a list of groups with suspected terrorist ties.

White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said Friday that more than $1-million had been frozen in the United States in the crackdown.

Canada has also placed Liban Hussein and his business on a list of companies and individuals whose assets can be frozen or seized because of suspected terrorist ties. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police refused to comment.

Questions about whether the United States had requested the detention or extradition of Hussein were referred to the Canadian Justice Department, which did not return messages Friday.

"We want the government to put all their stakes on the table," Osagiede said. "We want to know what the government has against them in terms of Barakaat North America."

In Portland, Maine, detectives questioned two men who transferred large amounts of money overseas, and were investigating whether there was any connection to the Sept. 11 attacks, police Chief Michael Chitwood said.

One of the men being questioned wired about $126,000 through a Portland bank to Baraka Trading Co. in the United Arab Emirates. The other sent $153,000 to banks overseas, but authorities did not believe he had ties to terrorism. Neither has been charged. Their names were not released.

Also Friday, state officials said they had revoked the Husseins' drivers' licenses after discovering the two had given false Social Security numbers when they converted their Ontario licenses in 1999.

Barakaat North America came under scrutiny at least as early as 1999, when a Boston bank closed its accounts because it made a large number of overseas wire transfers of just under $10,000, the threshold when such transactions must be reported to the federal government.

A year later, state banking officials warned the company about wiring money to foreign countries without a license. The Customs Service has identified nearly $800,000 wired from Barakaat North America's account to the Al Baraka Exchange in the United Arab Emirates.