A man who unwittingly told covert police officers of his plans to launch a terrorist attack, and his sister who kept the plans secret, have been convicted following a six-and-a-half-month counterterrorism investigation in the U.K.
Woolwich Crown Court heard how Mohuissunnath Chowdhury, 28, of Luton, confided his aspirations to men he thought were his friends, but who were in fact brave covert officers deployed as part of a Metropolitan (Met) Police Counter Terrorism Command investigation into his activities.
He was also recorded at home telling his sister Sneha Chowdhury, 25, of Luton, that he was “doing another attack”, and asking her for help to practise stabbing people – alarming information which Sneha Chowdhury did not report to police.
The Met Police Counter Terrorism Command launched an investigation – supported by the U.K. security service and Eastern Region Special Operations Unit – into Mohuissunnath Chowdhury’s activities after he began posting disturbing messages online, within days of his acquittal in relation to a separate charge of attack planning.
Counterterrorism detectives identified that soon after being released from remand in December 2018, following his acquittal, Mohuissunnath Chowdhury began posting messages online that demonstrated his extremist mind-set. By the end of January 2019, he had bought a replica gun, which suggested to police that he could be planning a terrorist attack.
Covert police officers were deployed to befriend Mohuissunnath Chowdhury, so they could find out what he was planning and determine how serious his intent was.
An unsuspecting Mohuissunnath Chowdhury not only confessed to officers that he was considering targeting crowded central-London tourist attractions and the Pride in London event, but even sought advice on obtaining a real gun from a covert officer using the name ‘Mikael’.
He thought Mikael shared his aspirations to murder innocent people and told the officer that, contrary to his claims of innocence in his previous trial, he had in fact intended to kill soldiers but succeeded in “deceiving” the jury who found him not guilty.
Having gathered a wealth of evidence that proved the Chowdhurys’ guilt, detectives arrested the siblings together on 3 July 2019, days before Pride in London.
Commander Richard Smith, head of the Met Police Counter Terrorism Command, said: “The courage and professionalism of these covert officers meant they obtained evidence that was, I feel, crucial to us securing these convictions today. They, like so many officers working across counterterrorism policing every day, are carrying out dangerous and challenging work to ensure the public is kept safe.”
“In counterterrorism, we constantly balance the risk dangerous individuals pose to the public with the need to gather evidence strong enough to secure a conviction and ensure they are locked up. Mohuissunnath Chowdhury was determined to kill innocent people but we arrested him at the right time, having been able to gather sufficient evidence of his plans.”
Detectives witnessed a stark change in Mohuissunnath Chowdhury’s demeanor over the course of his time in police custody. In initial police interviews he was open and talkative with detectives. Police believe he thought he was keeping them distracted while ‘Mikael’ went ahead with an attack.
Days later, when police revealed his ‘friend’ was in fact a covert officer, he became visibly withdrawn and refused to engage with detectives, answering “no comment” to their questions.
Mohuissunnath Chowdhury was subsequently charged with preparation of acts of terrorism. He was also charged with dissemination of a terrorist publication, in relation to a violent terrorist propaganda video he sent the covert officers, and possession of information useful to terrorism, for having a guide to carrying out terror attacks on his phone. On February 10, he was found guilty of all these offences.
Sneha Chowdhury was found guilty of one count of failing to disclose information regarding terrorist activity. She was found not guilty of another count of failing to disclose information regarding terrorist activity.
Speaking of Sneha Chowdhury’s conviction, Commander Smith said: “There is no acceptable reason for listening to someone say they are planning to kill innocent people, and watching them practise how they will do that, then not reporting it to police. Sneha Chowdhury wilfully kept her brother’s horrific secret and is now facing the consequences.
“However, not every case has to end this way. If relatives report indications that a loved one is becoming radicalized early on, there is an opportunity for authorities to intervene and help them before they become too deeply entrenched. All it takes is a phone call.”