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FTR #389 Update on Operation Green Quest

Lis­ten:
MP3 One Seg­ment [1]
RealAu­dio [2]

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 [3] 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 [4] 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!