*** The headlines are misleading: $4 million refers to RELOCATION & OTHER COSTS not the amount of money paid out to him. MS ***
A police agent who was paid $4.1 million to infiltrate an alleged terror group today testified for the first time on the opening day of the trial for Shareef Abdelhaleem, a member of the so-called Toronto 18.
Abdelhaleem, 34, is alleged to have used his friend, undercover police agent Shaher Elsohemy, to set up the purchase of three tones of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, destined for truck bombs targeting sites in downtown Toronto.
This morning, Elsohemy, currently in witness protection, told a Brampton court that he had developed a "strong" friendship with Abdelhaleem and frequented an Islamic school in Mississauga run by the accused's father. Their relationship was such that the two vacationed together, taking a trip to Morocco in 2005.
The Crown's star witness in this case has yet to testify about details involving the purchase of the ammonium nitrate, but Abdelhaleem's lawyer, William Naylor, has said he believes his client was entrapped and paid handsomely for it.
"A $4.1 million payoff is pretty steep...It's unprecedented in Canada," Naylor later told reporters, adding that's one of the problems with the case against his client. He went on to suggest that Elsohemy was more concerned with getting money than searching for the truth.
Naylor described his client as "relatively unIslamic," who doesn't fit the typical profile of a terror suspect. Before his arrest in the summer of 2006, Abdelhaleem was a well-educated engineer programmer earning six figures and driving around in a BMW convertible.
In court documents, the Crown alleges Abdelhaleem wanted to profit from the bomb plot by buying up stocks right before what he dubbed would be the "Battle of Toronto." The intended targets included the Toronto Stock Exchange, the Front Street offices of Canada's spy agency and a military base off of Hwy 401.
Abdelhaleem is the first adult linked to the Toronto 18 to stand trial. The Mississauga man, who will testify in his own defence, is charged with participating in a terrorist group and intending to cause an explosion. He pleaded not guilty to both counts.
Of the 18 people who were charged, four have pleaded guilty, a youth was convicted and seven had their charges stayed. Five remaining accused are scheduled to begin their trial in late March.
Abdelhaleem has elected to be tried by a judge alone and not a jury. He has been in custody since his June 2006 arrest.
*** Please note that the other 3 major players in this plot have all plead guilty. MS ***