A group of Yemeni men will not face jail time for sending millions of dollars to their family and friends in their war-torn native country. The men, who live in Detroit, did not register as a money transfer business, and it landed them in hot water with U.S. law enforcement. But a judge who understands Yemen’s financial system, bloody history and special circumstances declined to prosecute the men.
U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn, 95, told the Associated Press that “only people without compassion” would be upset about the Yemeni men’s light sentences.
“As I’ve been here longer,” Cohn told the Associated Press, “I’ve come to the realization that the rules are flexible — at least to me.”
All nine of the men pleaded guilty to failing to register money transfer businesses or making false statements to agents, according to the Associated Press.
Money sent to Yemen from abroad is critical for the people who live in the Arab world’s poorest country that has seen years of war and famine. Yemenis received at least $3.3 billion in 2018 from family and friends abroad, the Associated Press reported. Money from outside of the country is a “mainstay for many households and the national economy,” Sheila Carapico, a professor of global studies at the University of Richmond in Virginia, told the Associated Press.
But many other Yemenis sending money have not been as lucky as this group was with Cohn. Since 2018, federal prosecutors have charged nine people with sending money to Yemen via cash transfers.
Cohn said that he didn’t believe it would be fair to send this group of nine men to prison.
It would have been unfair to “shed the traditions and practices of your homeland,” Cohn told Hazem Saleh, who possibly faced five years in custody for handling $22.6 million. Cohn also said that current life in Yemen is “horrendous” and sending the men to prison would cause serious financial hardship on their families.