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For The Record  

FTR #389 Update on Operation Green Quest

MP3 One Segment

This program updates developments in the attempt at interdicting terrorist financing. In particular, the broadcast highlights the investigative tributaries being pursued under the auspices of “Operation Green Quest”– the operational name for the Bush administration’s ostensible attempt at interdicting the financial foundations of Al Qaeda. On March 20, 2002, Treasury Department agents raided a number of Muslim charities, businesses and non-profit organizations that are connected not only to Al Qaeda, but the Islamofascist Al Taqwa organization and its related institutions.

1. Updating information about a lawsuit filed by survivors of victims of 9/11, the broadcast highlights the inclusion of the Bank Al Taqwa as one of the defendants. “Bank al-Taqwa Limited of Nassau, Bahamas, raises, manages, invests and distributes funds for al Qaeda. President Bush called for a freeze on the bank’s assets last November.” (“9/11 Victims’ suit expanded” by Henry Weinstein [Los Angeles Times]; San Francisco Chronicle; 11/23/2002; p. A6.)

2. Among the defendants originally named in this lawsuit are key figures involved with the institutions targeted in the 3/20/2002 “Green Quest Raids.” These figures include: Members of the Al Rajhi Family (including Sulaiman Bin Abdul Aziz al Rajhi); Yaqub Mirza; Mar-Jac Investments; Mar-Jac Poultry; World Assembly of Muslim Youth; Heritage Education Trust; Jamal Barzinji; Safa Trust; SAAR Foundation; Cherif Sedky; Hisham Al-Talib; Khalid Bin Mahfouz and other members of his family; Abdel Abdul Batterjee; Yassin Al-Qadi; The International Relief Organization. (“IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA; Civil Action Case Number 1:02CV01616”; pp. 104-109.)

3. Much of the program focuses on a Wall Street Journal story by Glenn R. Simpson-the reporter who has done some of the best work on Operation Green Quest. Dealing with the career of Yassin Qadi (a defendant in the civil suit noted above) the article further delineates the connections between the Green Quest milieu and the Al Taqwa nexus. “. . . Pieced together from U.S. court filings and interviews, some of Mr. Qadi’s financial activities and relationships offer tentative answers to two key questions: ‘How does money get from wealthy Saudis and Saudi charities to extremist groups around the world? And why does some of it move through the U.S.?'” (“Tracing the Money, Terror Investigators Run into Mr. Qadi” by Glenn R. Simpson; The Wall Street Journal; 11/26/2002; p. A1.)

4. Continuing with the subject of Qadi’s dealings, the article delineates three “interesting” deals. “In one case, Mr. Qadi gave $820,000 to a Chicago charity that subsequently gave funds to a man convicted in Israel of helping buy weapons for Hamas, the Palestinian group known for sponsoring terror attacks against Israel. In a second instance, a Saudi-backed charity in Virginia invested $2.1 million in a real estate company that shared offices with a New Jersey firm owned by Mr. Qadi—and the money—disappeared. U.S. investigators say they have evidence suggesting that the real-estate company, in which Mr. Qadi formerly was an investor, may later have provided funds for terrorism abroad.” (Idem.)

5. “In a third case, the U.S. arm of a Malaysian company of which Mr. Qadi was a director-along with that same Saudi-backed charity in Virginia-invested in a Chicago company that was stockpiling dangerous chemicals. The Chicago company was headed by a man whom U.S. officials suspect of being a Hamas associate.” (Idem.)

6. Underscoring the role of the U.S. as a medium through which terrorist funds can be transferred. “Some U.S. officials say all of this complexity is designed to shield wealthy Saudis from direct association with extremist groups. ‘It looked bad for people in Saudi Arabia to be writing checks from a bank in Riyadh to Hamas,’ says Mark Flessner, a former federal prosecutor. He spent years tracking Mr. Qadi and suspected terrorist cells in Chicago as part of a Justice Department probe in the late 1990’s known as Operation Vulgar Betrayal. Sponsors of extremist groups ‘were able to hide their Saudi financial sources by bringing funds into and through the U.S.,’ Mr. Flessner says. The investigation ended without indictments in 1999 but recently has been restarted.” (Idem.)

7. “The Saudi money moves through the U.S. for the same reasons that attract other global investors, Mr. Flessner says: American financial institutions are reliable, and, until recently, transfers from U.S. banks to the Middle East rarely provoked suspicion. Before September 11, Islamic charitable and religious organizations in this country received relatively little scrutiny from law enforcement.” (Idem.)

8. Fleshing out the details about the first of Mr. Qadi’s questionable deals, the program sets forth information about the $820,000 transfer described above. “The U.S. has cited Mr. Qadi as a supporter of terrorism for his alleged financial ties not just to Hamas but also to Osama bin Laden. The government says Mr. Qadi helped set up and fund an Islamic charity in Europe and Africa that has provided millions of dollars to Mr. bin Laden’s al Qaeda organization. The chain of events that would eventually land Mr. Qadi on the U.S. government’s list of backers of terrorism began in 1991. Acting through one of his companies, Qadi International, Mr. Qadi transferred $820,000 from a Swiss bank account to the Quranic Literacy Institute, a suburban Chicago group that distributes Muslim texts, Mr. Qadi’s lawyers and the FBI say. In May of that year, the Quranic institute used the money to purchase several acres in Woodbridge, a quiet town of 30,000 about 25 miles southwest of Chicago.” (Ibid.; p. A10.)

9. “But in an affidavit filed in June 1998 in federal court in Chicago, FBI agent Robert Wright said the real-estate investment was designed to produce money for terrorism in the Middle East. The transaction resulted in the Quranic institute ‘gaining possession and ownership of the Woodbridge property in a manner that obscured its connection to the overseas transfer of $820,000 from the Saudi entity Qadi International,’ the affidavit said. The institute’s Mr. Zaki is a former top official of another Saudi-funded Muslim group that holds legal title to hundreds of mosques in the U.S. . . .The FBI asserts he, like Mr. Qadi, is a conduit for terror money.” (Idem.)

10. The Hamas operative implicated in the real estate deal described above is Mohammad Salah. Among the people who interceded on behalf of Mr. Salah was Talat Othman, a director of George W. Bush’s Harken Energy firm. Othman also interceded on behalf of the Green Quest targets. “In civil asset-seizure proceedings in 1998 in federal court in Chicago, the Justice Department said the Quranic institute ‘lent substantial assistance, through means of repeated and possibly illegal subterfuge and misrepresentation, to a man who is an admitted operative of Hamas.’ Lawyers for the institute deny it was involved in any wrongdoing.” (Idem.)

11. “The admitted Hamas operative was Mohammad Salah, an employee of the [Quranic] institute. According to FBI agent Wright’s 1998 affidavit, Mr. Salah received most of about $110,000 in income generated by the Woodbridge property. Mr. Salah was arrested in Israel in January 1993 with a large sum of cash and a cache of notes describing meetings with various Hamas cells. In 1995, he pled guilty in Israeli court to being a top Hamas operative involved in raising money for the terror group. . .” (Idem.)

12. The second case involves a company called BMI, the International Relief Organization, and Mercy International. “In March, federal agents led by the Customs Service raided the International Relief Organization and a dozen other related Islamic charities and companies in northern Virginia as part of an investigation into support for terrorism, money laundering and fraud. [This allusion is to the 3/20/2002 raids.] About a decade earlier, International Relief was flush with cash after a $10 million infusion from Saudi donors, according to subsequent testimony by the charity’s officials in federal court in Greenbelt, Md. FBI court filings show that during this period, the charity received $400,000 in funding from the Saudi Embassy in Washington. In 1992, International Relief gave $2.1 million to a company called BMI Inc. to invest in real estate in Washington’s Maryland suburbs, the officials testified.” (Idem.)

13. More about BMI and its relationship with Mr. Qadi. “BMI, which stands for the Arabic Beit ul Mal, or House of Finance, for years shared offices with Mr. Qadi’s ‘Qadi International’ in Secaucus, N.J. Through his lawyers, Mr. Qadi says he was ‘an investor’ in BMI but cashed out in 1996. BMI’s other investors included Mousa Abu Marzouk, a top Hamas leader based in Syria, according to a March 2000 affidavit by the FBI’s Mr. Wright. Now Defunct, BMI described itself as an ‘Islamic Bank’ and solicited investments by means of pamphlets distributed at Muslim gatherings. Records on BMI’s financing, as well as other information about Mr. Qadi, were obtained from researchers for Washington-based terrorism analyst Steven Emerson.” (Idem.)

14. Capricious accounting practices appear to have been pursued in connection with the BMI/International Relief financial records. The evidentiary trail leading from International Relief leads in the direction of the Embassy bombings in 1998 and-as we will see-to the Al Taqwa-derived “The 2.1 million from International Relief Organization disappeared from BMI’s books, a fact that has attracted attention from U.S. investigators. In August 1998, the al Qaeda network simultaneously bombed two U.S. embassies in East Africa, causing U.S. investigators to step up scrutiny of money flows to terror groups. The following month, International Relief alleged it had discovered several ‘accounting irregularities,’ including the vanishing of the entire $2.1 million it had invested with BMI. The suit has puzzled terrorism investigators, who are exploring whether it was filed to create an explanation for the disappearance of funds that actually went to extremist groups. (Mr. Qadi wasn’t named in the suit. . . .” (Idem.)

15. “U.S. investigators say they have established a financial link between BMI, the company to which Mr. Qadi had ties, and an Islamic charity called Mercy International [Emphasis added]. Records that surfaced during the prosecution in 2000 and 2001 of al Qaeda figures involved in the East Africa bombings show that a charity by that name in Nairobi, Kenya, helped support the embassy attacks. . .” (Idem.)

16. Before reviewing the links between Gulf Office, the Banca del Gottardo, Al Taqwa and Mercy International, the broadcast sets forth the third of the interesting transactions involving Mr. Qadi. “In the mid 1990’s, another company to which Mr. Qadi had ties, Abrar Investments Inc., joined with International Relief Organization to invest in a Chicago chemical company-a deal that is also drawing scrutiny from federal investigators. . .” (Idem.)

17. The chemical company is Global Chemical Corp. “Abrar and International Relief Organization jointly invested more than $2 million in Global Chemical Corp., which said it made household and pool-cleaning supplies. . .” (Idem.)

18. Global Chemical’s physical inventory and assets raise disturbing questions. “Global Chemical kept a warehouse full of highly toxic chemicals but appeared to have few if any customers, according to the Donahue affidavit. Alarmed, the FBI asked one of the government’s senior experts on chemical weapons, Dennis J. Reutter, chief of the army’s Material Command Treaty Laboratory in Edgewood, Md., to look at the chemicals Global Chemical was purchasing.” (Idem.)

19. “The FBI included an ominous excerpt from Mr. Reutter’s Oct. 23, 1996, report in Ms. Donahue’s affidavit. The purchases, he wrote, ‘do not appear to be consistent with R&D for formulation of commercial cleaning products or for quality control of commercial cleaning products.’ The names of the chemicals weren’t made public. His report concluded that ‘taken in total, the purchases appear to be more consistent with support’ of a laboratory performing biochemistry or ‘organic synthesis,’ Mr. Reutter declines to comment.” (Idem.)

20. The program notes connections among Mercy International, Al Taqwa, Gulf Office and the Embassy bombings in 1998. “The Milanese connection originates in the Bahamas. Since leaving its first head office in Nassau, Al Taqwa established itself at NIGH (Nasreddin International Group Holdings)-10, Dewaux Street in Nassau. The NIGH holding company deserves close attention. Yussef Nada’s assistant Ali Ghaleb Himmat works there. The Bank of Gothard is NIGH’s bank, through account CC/B No. 313656, through the agency of Chiasso, in the name of a Charity foundation. The Bank of Gothard also appears, in a confidential report on Al Taqwa’s activity, under the heading of business connections. The bank manager at Gothard, Claudio Generale, told me, however, that he does not know either Al Taqwa or its director, much less the holding company NIGH.” (Dollars for Terror: The United States and Islam; by Richard Labeviere; Copyright 2000 [SC]; Algora Publishing; ISBN 1-892941-06-6; p. 150.)

21. “The president and creator of NIGH, Nasreddin Ahmed Idris, who also appears on the list of the first shareholders in Al Taqwa, is honorary consul of Kuwait in Milan. Living in Italy, Switzerland and Morocco, this businessman directs a multitude of financial companies, most of which end up leading again to the nebula of Al Taqwa. One of them, Gulf Office (Association for Commercial, Industrial and Tourist Development between the Gulf States and Switzerland), currently dormant, had been housed in the same building as the mosque of Lugano. In 1994, the Italian judicial system had its sights on Gulf Office and conducted an inquiry into its activities in the context of the operation ‘clean hands’. . . .” (Idem.)

22. “But Nasreddin Ahmed Idris’s real representative at the head of Gulf Office is another member of the Muslim Brothers, Khaldoun Dia Eddine, who belongs to the Syrian branch of the organization. He too was ‘employed’ by the bank Al Taqwa, which he represented in Lugano, before he took on the coordination of the activities of ‘Mercy International,’ an Islamic humanitarian organization. The humanitarian organizations, Islamic nongovernmental organizations (NGO’s), represent one of the other ‘derivative products’ from Al Taqwa bank.” (Ibid.; p. 151.)

23. On the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States, an Israeli-owned resort was bombed in Mombasa, Kenya. Mercy International’s situation is interesting to contemplate in the context of that bombing. “Lastly, in the spring of 1997, the Kenyan police also dismantled several Islamic NGO’s in Mombasa and the Sudan border area, including an office of ‘Mercy International.'” (Ibid.; p. 353.)

24. It is worth noting where Mercy International has relocated. “Today, [1999] Mercy International has moved its headquarters to the United States: it declares a gross budget of $2 million.” (Ibid.; pp. 151-152.) Have Mercy!


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