Lawyers for Pakistani-American businessman Tahawwur Rana claim he was deceived by his childhood friend

Lawyers for Tahawwur Rana, a Pakistani-American businessman charged with having facilitated the November 26, 2008 attacks on Mumbai, say he had no knowledge his immigration business was being used as a cover for the Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Rana's lawyers will argue that he was duped by his childhood friend, the Pakistani-American jihadist-turned-star prosecution witness David Headley, when court proceedings reopen on Tuesday after an extended weekend break.

Deceitful conduct

Charles Swift, Rana's lawyer, earlier underlined the training Headley received from Pakistan's intelligence services, his less-than-edifying past as a narcotics trafficker and his deceitful conduct with his two wives.

Mr. Swift noted that his client had visited India in November 2008, along with his wife — suggesting he had no knowledge that the terrorist knowledge was imminent.

But prosecutors say e-mail between the two men makes clear the businessman knew at least something of Headley's real agenda.

Headley, for example, forwarded Rana instructions he received from his Inter-Services Intelligence handler on May 20, 2008 — complete with references to harvesting intelligence in India and the need for “strengthening our cover.”

Had Rana not known of Headley's real intentions, it seems reasonable that he would have asked for some explanation of why their immigration business was involved in gathering military intelligence.

In another May 19 e-mail, Headley asked Rana to directly contact his intelligence handler to discuss Shiv Sena worker Rajaram Rege, who he hoped to exploit for a plot to assassinate the party's chief, Bal Thackeray.

Bar a single May 17, 2007 e-mail, there is nothing to show either Headley or Rana were concerned about the financial foundations of their immigration business in India — and even that message suggests that their accounts were maintained with a casualness unusual in a commercial operation.

Rana's lawyers had earlier sought immunity for his acts, saying he “acted pursuant to his actual or believed exercise of public authority on behalf of the Government of Pakistan and Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Agency.”

Harry Leinenweber, the judge hearing the case, rejected the application in an April 11 order, saying the public-authority defences were not applicable to acts commissioned by foreign governments.

An indiscreet spy

Even though Headley has been cast as a highly-trained intelligence operative, the e-mail also suggests that Headley was an indiscreet spy, leaving behind a trial of damning evidence.

In a May 22, 2008 e-mail to his Inter-Services Intelligence handler, Headley even referred to himself as “Dave Salafi”— suffixing a reference to his adherence to the sect of Islam the Lashkar and other jihadist groups draw much of their cadre from.

His handler proved just as incompetent, asking in an uncoded e-mail if Headley would be able to generate “any worthwhile information related to [the Indian] military.”

Fails to destroy notes

Headley also failed to destroy hand-written notes with contact numbers for Lashkar-e-Taiba commanders and Pakistani intelligence officials, as well as book of Jewish ritual practices he used to gain access to the Chabad House in Mumbai.