Friday, May 28, 2010



The final witness testifying in the "Toronto 18" terrorism case said he was "scared of the jihad talk" when he met with ringleader Fahim Ahmad to discuss ways of fraudulently raising money for the group.

Thomas Stella, a defence witness and longtime friend of Steven Chand, one of the final two facing charges in the high-profile case, told the jury he wanted nothing to do with the group after Mr. Chand introduced him to Ahmad and Mubin Shaikh, an undercover Canadian Security Intelligence Service agent, on two occasions in March 2006.

"I just didn't want to deal with them," said Mr. Stella, who described Ahmad as "nuts" after hearing his jihad philosophy.

Mr. Stella testified that he and Mr. Chand became friends while working at a telemarketing company in 1997.

Mr. Chand, 29, is on trial and accused of participating in the "Toronto 18" terrorist group that allegedly operated between 2005 and 2006 and planned to detonate truck bombs in downtown Toronto and behead the prime minister.

He also faces a charge of counselling someone to commit fraud over $5,000 for the benefit of a terrorist group.

Earlier this month, Ahmad pleaded guilty to terrorism charges.

Throughout yesterday's proceedings, Mr. Chand sat silently at the back of the courtroom, his shoulder-length black hair pulled back in a bun. He did not take the stand in his own defence.

Mr. Stella, 28, told the court that in 2005, his primary source of income was credit card fraud, an activity that resulted in a conviction the following year.

He said Mr. Chand discussed with him in early 2006 the possibility of obtaining "profiles" -- detailed personal information about unsuspecting private citizens -- from Ahmad for the purpose of committing identity theft to raise money for the group.

The jury heard a CSIS wiretap intercept in which Mr. Stella tells Ahmad, Mr. Shaikh and Mr. Chand how stolen personal information could be used to obtain bank loans of between $10,000 and $25,000. He also boasted about being able to "create" people by using the stolen personal information of dead people to obtain a SIN number.

"In this wonderful country you just need a SIN number to be a person," Mr. Stella is heard telling the group.

Mr. Chand's lawyer attempted to paint his client as a simple bystander during the meeting.

"Did Steven have any role to play at this first meeting?" Michael Moon asked.

"No," replied Mr. Stella. Mr. Moon hinted that the two friends intended to defraud Ahmad by using the personal information he supplied to take out loans, all the while telling Ahmad that the scheme didn't work.

When asked if Mr. Chand was to receive any proceeds resulting from the identity thefts and bank loans, Mr. Stella replied: "I guess."