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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - A West Michigan gem trader is requesting a multi-million dollar reward from the federal government, saying he provided the FBI with the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden eight years before the al-Qaida leader was killed in a carefully-orchestrated U.S. military strike.
Loevy & Loevy Attorneys at Law, which is representing Tom Lee of Grand Rapids, wrote a letter to the director of the FBI saying Lee was entitled to the $25 million U.S. State Department reward for information leading to bin Laden.
The letter, dated Aug. 6 and provided Friday to 24 Hour News 8 by the law firm, says that Lee told an FBI agent in West Michigan in 2003 that foreign contacts told him bin Laden was hiding in the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan where the mastermind behind the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 was killed in 2011.
Lee is an American citizen with Egyptian heritage, the letter says, and has contacts in the Middle East -- including Pakistan -- due to his 40-year career in trading gems.
His attorneys say Lee has a 20-year history of "providing high-quality information about international criminals" to the federal government. In 1986, the letter says, he tipped off authorities when a corrupt Naval Intelligence officer attempted to get him to launder money he had received from the Soviet Union in exchange for military secrets. He has also helped U.S. Customs and Border Protection in investigating illegal gem trading. They provided the FBI with a video recording of a U.S. Customs agent accounting the history of Lee's aid.
That agent also said he went with Lee in 2003 to meet with an agent at the FBI's Grand Rapid field office, during which Lee told the agent that bin Laden was in Pakistan rather than Afghanistan, as was "widely believed at the time," according to the letter.
Lee said the got the information a Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agent with whom he had been familiar for decades. That ISI agent's family opposed bin Laden's actions and believed he was a "corrupter of the Koran," the letter says.
The ISI agent told Lee he had been on a mission to relocate bin Laden and his family from Peshawar, Pakistan to a compound in Abbottabad, the letter says.
The letter says the FBI agent prepared a report of the meeting with Lee.
Bin Laden was killed at a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan on May 1, 2011 during a U.S. military operation.
Lee says it was the same compound he tipped off the authorities to in 2003, according to the letter.
After bin Laden's death, the letter says, Lee tried to contact the FBI to claim the $25 million reward for information regarding bin Laden's location. But his attempts were ignored, the letter claims.
His attorneys say Lee is entitled to the $25 million because he told the FBI where bin Laden could be found.
"It is vital that people like Mr. Lee receive the advertised awards when they come forward to provide the FBI with accurate information about high-placed terrorists, at Mr. Lee plainly did," the letter concludes.
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