by Kevin Coogan
The first part of this report will primarily summarize information from an important book by Johannes and Germana von Dohnanyi entitled Schmutzige Geschäfte und Heiliger Krieg: Al-Qaida in Europa (Dirty Business and Holy War: Al-Qaida in Europe) published by Pendo Verlag (Zurich, 2002). The von Dohnanyis are longtime investigative reporters based in Milan. I will concentrate on part of Chapter 4 (“The Financing of Jihad”) and all of chapter 5 (“A Fatal Mixture”), which summarizes pages 216–264.
The second part of this report will focus more on al-Taqwa member Achmed Huber and his possible links to Said Ramadan, one of the most important Islamists in Europe but whose 1995 death has made him almost invisible in contemporary accounts.
PART ONE: SUMMARY OF THE DOHNANYI BOOK
Prince Mohammad al Faisal al Saud is not only a pious Muslim but he belongs to the innermost circle of the Saudi dynasty as the son of the former King al Saud, cousin of the first rank to King Fahd and brother to the longtime head of the Saudi secret service, Prince Turki al-Faisal who stepped down in August 2001.
Since 1983 the Prince became in charge of the trust company Dar al-Mal al-Islami (DMI), founded two years earlier and which is based in Cointrin near Geneva. It has an estimated $3.5 billion dollars, the greatest part (according to the former DMI manager Ziad Keilaney) coming either from the private holdings of the King’s family or other wealthy Saudis. The DMI, along with the Saudi banking concern Dallah al-Baraka, is one of the most important sources for the spreading of Wahhabi ideas in Islam.
The DMI also controls the Islamic Investment Company of the Gulf, the Bahrain based Faisal Islamic Bank and the Geneva-registered Faisal Finance. The vice-president of Faisal Finance SA is a Somali named Omar Abdi Ali who is also to be found in the top management of DMI. DMI directly financed two “humanitarian” organizations, the International Development Foundation (IDF) and the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO).
In June 2000 the DMI completed the fusion of Faisal Islamic Bank and the International Investment Company to the Bahrain-registered Shamil Bank. A few months later the Shamil Bank opened its first foreign affiliate in Yemen. The Shamil Bank was 60% controlled by representatives of DMI in Nassau while the rest was from unknown private investors. The Shamil Bank held in turn 20% of the shares of the Arab Albanian Islamic Bank in Tirana. The bank employed at least one member of Al Qaida, an Egyptian named Ibrahim al-Jajjar, who in 1998 was involved in a planned assault on the American Embassy in Tirana.
Prince Mohammed al-Faisal al-Saud and his Somali top deputy Omar Abdi Ali are also represented in the highest management of the Shamil Bank. Another member is Haydar bin Laden, one of the many half brothers of Osama.
(At the beginning of 2001 the sister company of Faisal Finance was hit by the economic currency crisis and the collapse of the Turkish economy. In Geneva Prince Mohammed and his friends decided to get rid of the Turkish company. In May 2001 Faisal Finance was taken over by the Turkish big businessman Sabri Ulker and his USA-registered Islamic Finance group, American Finance House—Lariba and renamed Family Finance.)
The DMI and its sister corporations follow Islamic banking law and pay “Zakat,” the religious tax, on all their transactions. Western investigators believe that Zakat money is critical in financing extremist Islamic groups and American investigators suspect money transfers from the DMI to a group like the Islamic International Relief Organization which, in turn, is suspected of financing bin-Laden’s worldwide “Jihad against Jews and Crusaders.”
Besides Saudis who give money to Muslim institutions out of piety there are those who have been enticed by Western life and are subject to blackmail so they feel it is easier to make payoffs to Muslim extremists out of their own “freewill.”
As for the West it has for years hushed up the misuse of humanitarian funds on the grounds of political expediency while the Saudis act outraged at any attack. In October 2001 influential Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz bitterly complained after American special units involved in the SFOR peace keeping forces in Bosnia got crates of documents and money removed for illicit activity by branches of many Islamic aid groups as well as the Saudi “High Commission for Relief” in Sarajevo and in the central Bosnian small city of Zenica. Meanwhile the Saudi businessman Yassim al-Qadi, who American and Israeli secret services had identified as a top sponsor of Hamas and who, along with his Muwafaq Foundation, was put on Washington’s list of terror sponsors, denounced attacks on him in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, saying these charges would lead to America losing “more and more of its true friends.”
Instead of complaining, Yassim al-Qadi should spend more time better controlling his Muwafaq Foundation. As documents in a London court case show, the Muwafaq Foundation is active in Afghanistan, Albania, Ethiopia, Bosnia, England, Austria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the USA. All these activities were financed by a branch of the foundation, the Tamaam Trustees, based in the tax haven of the Isle of Jersey where there is minimal supervision and which is essentially a post office box for the Muwafaq Foundation.
The director of the Bosnian Muwafaq operation was the Tunisian-born businessman Shafiq Ayadi who carries a Bosnian passport. Shafiq Ayadi was placed on the U.S. terrorism list after 9/11. Islamic NGOs in the war years were frequently searched and again and again weapons and other materials were discovered meant for the Mujahadin in Bosnia. It is certain that both the Croat buro of both the Muwafaq Foundation and the Saudi High Commission for Relief served as a step on the way to the Bosnian front for many Mujahadin. Many of them were from the non-Bosnian Islamist El Mudzahid Brigade who treated Serbian POW’s horribly. It also turned out that a Saudi citizen named Abdul Hadi al-Gahtani, who in the city of Zenica in 1994 killed the British aid worker Paul Goodall because he had shown too much interest in the activities of the Islamists, had identity papers (ein Ausweis) from the Saudi High Relief Commission. A Bosnian court that had sentenced al-Gathani in abstentia to a long jail term described him as “director of the Saudi High Commission in Zenica.” Al-Gathani, however, never served his sentence because he escaped from detention.
The Saudi High Commission was directed by King Fahd’s brother Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz. In a bit of spin control a deputy representative of the High Commission, Fahd al-Zakari, in October 2001 told the press in Sarajevo that the Commission only employed men with a “morally clean background” but it can’t judge what is concealed from it. Muwafaq Foundation founder Yassim al-Qadi advances similar arguments. In the Wall Street Journal, al-Qadi cited a report on the foundation from the Dutch secret service that described it as an “important instrument of radical Muslims” but also said that it was unclear to what extent the Saudis were themselves aware of the danger.
In the beginning of 1990s originating from Sudan there was registered in Vienna the Third World Relief Agency (TWRA) with Saudi money and support from the Iranian secret police, the Vevak, which supplied money and weapons to the Muslim factions in the Bosnia war. There was also established al-Haramayne that supplied weapons to Mujahadin in Afghanistan.
The “humanitarian” organization al-Haramayne was founded in 1992 by the Saudi Religion Minister Saleh bin Addulaziz al Sheikh as the spearhead for the ag
gressive expansion of Wahhabi beliefs. In the views of Russian and American investigators, the al-Haramayne Foundation was linked with the Saudi financial concern Dallah al-Baraka whose founder and majority holder, Saleh Abdullah Kamel, earlier served among other things as the General Inspector of Finance for the Saudi monarchy. Kamel’s name surfaced after 9/11 in connection with the role the Sudanese financial world played in connection with the activities of Osama bin-Laden.
In 1999 al Haramayne opened in Azerbaijan an office of the – until then unknown – “Foundation for Chechnya.” A year before the Russian secret service FIS discovered that the leading management of the Al-Baraka Group including Hafez Abu Bakr Mohammed of “Al Baraka Investment and Development” had financed trips by Chechnya rebel leaders to the USA. In December 1999 a member of a European secret service based in Karachi overheard Sheik Abu Omar, who represented al-Haramayne in Chechnya, being greeted by the Taliban’s counsel who praised Sheik Abu Omar for his aid in helping out in the war against the Russians in Chechnya. An elite Russian unit monitoring communications in the war heard a conversation from Georgia saying that al-Haramayne must avoid being identified as the “inciter of Jihad.” The Russian FIS estimates that al-Haramayne contributed $50 million to the cause and also helped send fighters with operational experience in Bosnia and Kosovo to Chechnya.
Nor did al-Haramayne neglect Afghanistan. The Afghan office, headed by Nasser bin Mohammed al Gilale, was actually based in the Saudi Embassy. When the Northern Alliance took Kabul he was detained by the Northern Alliance. Examinations of records show that the group had instructions from Riyadh to aid Saudi citizens. But all Saudi diplomats and civilians had left Afghanistan when the war broke out and the only remaining groups of Saudi citizens were Al Qaida members. According to one of the detained Taliban prisoners, the Saudi Al Qaida members always got interventions on their behalf from al-Haramayne.
Other “Humanitarian” Fronts
Another key group suspected of aiding Al Qaida by passing on “Zakat” funds is the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO) which until September 1999 shared the same Oxford address as the International Development Foundation (IDF) of the Saudi millionaire Khalid bin Mahfouz. Also at the same address is the Oxford Trust for Islamic Studies to which the bin Laden family yearly contributes a great deal of money. The IDF, like its sister company Sedco Services Ltd. (part of Khalid bin Mahfouz’s Saudi Economic and Development Corporation – Sedco), is now in London, and is directed by Khalid’s brother Mohammed Salim bin Mahfouz and the British weapons dealer Mohammed Saleh Affara who is of Yemeni origin. Affara helped broker a series of weapons contracts (codenamed “Sawari‑2”) between Saudi Arabia and France. Contact to Osama bin Laden, it is said, also comes via the Sudan-based part of the organization “Blessed Relief” that is directed by Khalid’s son Abdul Rahman bin Mahfouz. The organization was suspected by the American and Egyptian secret services of being involved in planning an assassination attempt on Hosni Mubarak when he was making a state visit to Ethiopia. In the coffers of the International Islamic Relief Organization one finds Zakat money from the Geneva-based DMI and relief aid from the Lugano-based Al Taqwa group.
Of course these groups vigorously protest against charges that they are a 5th column of terrorism. So where is there an answer for the charge that $7 million was sent from the Committee for Charity and the Sheik Eid-ben-Mohammed al-Thani Foundation (both based in Qatar) that sent this money in December 1999 to the Mujahadin in Chechnya. Only the merciless examination of their books and the books of other such groups can answer the following accusations regarding
1) The charge that the Blessed Relief group in Birmingham, England – a key part of the Muslim brotherhood and also registered as a UN NGO – was used by bin Laden and has operations in Chechnya, Azerbaijan, and Kashmir where it runs weapons under the cover of humanitarian assistance.
2) The Kuwait-based Islamic Revival Movement represented in Albania where it is linked to the former head of Egyptian Jihad, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and that this group also finances the Algerian GIA.
3) The Albanian Muslim Mohammad Abdel Karim, director of the Islamic Revival Movement in Tirana, is responsible for the entry of donations especially from emigrants from Kosovo who are in Germany and Switzerland and are then sent to finance a Kuwait-based anonymous Aid Committee for Kuwait.
As this information came out (especially after the Deuxieme Bureau had assembled information in the months before and after 9/11 as well as information from many different sources) the debate really began about the aid groups and their ties to the Islamic banking community and terrorism. Western banks are also involved. For example, the Giro Credit Bank in Vienna had no problem administering the $350 million account of Islamic fundamentalists for the war in Bosnia. The al-Shamal Islamic Bank in Khartoum uses a correspondent bank, the British Arab Commercial Bank, and the al-Shamal bank is seen by secret services to have administered a great part of bin Laden’s business interests in the second half of the 1990s. The British Arab Commercial Bank is 25% owned by the Libyan Central Bank-controlled Libyan Arab Foreign Bank while another main holder is Hong Kong-Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC). During testimony in court regarding the 1998 attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the State witness Jamal Mohammed al-Fadl said that Al Qaida members had accounts at al-Shamal. Another account was in the Bank Faisal Islami, a second Sudanese bank that the Geneva-based DMI has part ownership in as well. In the same court case another Al Qaida defector, Essam al-Ridi, said bin Laden took $230,000 and transferred it from al-Shamal Bank to Arizona to acquire a plane which was supposed to fly Stinger missiles from Pakistan to Sudan.
Al-Shamal’s top manager Mohammed S. Mohammed vehemently protests these allegations. But bin-Laden’s name surfaced as a name of one of the bank’s founders which already in 1983 had starting capital of about $20 million. As late as 1996 bin-Laden was listed with 13 other Saudi and Sudanese as bank shareholders. According to Mohammed S. Mohammed, bin Laden only used the bank for two accounts for the Wadi Al Aqiq and the Al-Hijrah for Construction and Development companies. In 1997 these accounts were closed. The Wadi Al Aqiq, whose account was inactive since 1995 according to Mohammed, was not only a business following Saudi law but was even registered in Saudi Arabia. Riyadh hasn’t answered the puzzle of how bin-Laden could still be the registered owner of a Saudi business when a year before the Kingdom had revoked his citizenship rights and had frozen all the funds it could locate. As for the DMI, it also denies any links at all to terrorist groups.
[Although not cited in the Dohnanyi book, the Sonntagszeitung of Zurich in December 2001 came out with a story concerning a 50 page report by the private Geneva Organisation du Crime Organise (OCO) that also links al-Taqwa to private “humanitarian” networks. According to the report, a Zurich-based Syrian member of al-Taqwa (identified only as “K”) was also active in the now-liquidated Mercy International, which was used to overcome the UN weapons embargo against Bosnia. K was also involved with the UCK in Albania. While part of al-Taqwa, K also worked with the Firm Gulf Office in Lugano that was directed by al-Taqwa shareholder Nasreddin. The report lists as partners of the al-Taqwa group the Gulf Office in Lugano, Spacetronic Sahal Int., and Nada Management.]
Yeslam Bin Laden
Swiss Lucien Rouiller was until 2001 not only an advisor to the DMI in Cointrin but he was also an advisor to Faisal Finance SA and the Faisal Islamic Bank. At the same time Rouiller was linked to the Geneva-registered MKS Finance SA owned by the Shakarchi brothers. In the 1980s Shakarchi Trading sent not just $25 million of CIA money to Afghanistan but also was involved in drug money for the Turkish mafia. For a time a member of the family was represented on the advisory board of Russell-Wood in London as well. And this complicated and many-branched business was the British branch of the Geneva-registered Saudi Investment Company (SICO). SICO was founded in May 1980 as the Swiss investment center for the bin Laden family under the name Cygnet SA and later renamed SICO. It belongs to the Swiss-based Yeslam bin Laden, one of Osama’s many half brothers. Yeslam has been zealous in promoting the idea that the bin Laden family has nothing to do with Osama. Yet Osama’s [step] mother in the beginning of 2001 visited Afghanistan for an expensive marriage ceremony of her grandson (which was broadcast over al-Jazeera) and she speaks regularly on the phone to Osama. Another half brother of Osama’s, Sheik Ahmad, told CNN how much he admires Osama’s deep piety as well as his determination to achieve a goal. And more and more French and American experts are suspecting financial support from his family that has economic consequences. After 9/11 members of the Caryle Group (which includes George Bush Sr.) asked the bin Laden group to withdraw its investments. Also an investment of at least $20 million by the bin Laden group in a sister society of the Deutsche Bank in London was suddenly not welcomed.
The idea that there remained close ties between bin Laden and his family was most put forth about Yeslam bin Laden who has spent the past 20 years in Switzerland. It is the Swiss author Richard Labeviere in his 1999 book Dollars for Terror that challenged the official version that there was a clean break between Osama and the rest of the family in 1994. Labeviere says that SICO has played a key role in money laundering but Yeslam bin Laden refuses to respond to the charges and said that it would be a great mistake to respond, as it would only serve as further advertisement for the book. Yet after 9/11 a French report came out with the same information accusing SICO of ties to bin Laden. It essentially notes that SICO has so many offshore structures that it can elude financial supervision. Five months after investigators of the French toll unit Tracfin assembled evidence regarding illicit transactions. The director of the investigation, Renaud van Ruymbeke, discussed suspicious transactions between France, England and the British Virgin Islands. Almost on the exact day of this announcement two months later the homes and apartments as well as Yeslam bin Laden’s company were searched.
Yeslim bin Laden knows his life is now under the microscope. Why did he fly, for example, nine times to Milan? Each stop was so short, reports a member of the maintenance team at the private Forlanini airport that it couldn’t be for shopping. Six times bin Laden came to Milan from his domicile in Cannes and because of EU regulations these flights were considered domestic and no list of passengers was required to be filed. But three times he flew in from Zurich and Italian border police have copies of the passenger list. Here there is a puzzle as one name is “Carlos Rochat” but there is no Carlos Rochat known to investigators. However there is a Charles Rochat who is on the SICO advisory board. Is this a typo or is there someone else using a false passport? They can’t get an answer from Yeslam bin Laden who is silent on this matter.
It is equally possible that bin Laden’s silence about Rochat is meant to avoid other problems that might arise. Such as why Charles Rochat and Baudoin Dunand, two members of the SICO advisory board who are attorneys, on May 21, 2001 liquidated the business Tyndall Trust that had first been registered in Villars-sur-Glane near Fribourg in January 1986. They fulfilled the same function for a sister society of the Tyndall Trust that shared the same name and that was opened up in 1990 in Geneva and liquidated in January 2001. One of the top managers of the Tyndall Trust since its founding was the American tax attorney Willard Zucker who lives in Geneva. Zucker also controls the Lake Geneva-registered Compagnie de Service Fiduciaires (CSF). And CFS had, along with participation from Tyndall Trust, assumed financial management for a corporate group named Enterprise.
Enterprise, however, had nothing to do with successor company to the 1983-founded successor to the Albert Hakim and U.S. General Richard Secord-founded Stanford Technologies Trading Group International (STTGI), which later changed its name to Enterprise and administered secret and illegal weapons shipments with Iran and the Contras. The same Willard Zucker arranged payments from the Enterprise account for Oliver North. In 1986 the Syrian Monsar al-Kassar was paid from an Enterprise account for a weapons deal with the Contras. But al-Kassar was not only one of the world’s great weapons dealers. He also had close ties with Islamic fundamentalist and terrorist groups in the Mid East. Al-Kassar also worked with an international group interested in sending toxic and atomic waste materials by ship to Mozambique.
As for Zucker, he has constantly denied that any of his activity on behalf of the Enterprise group from America infringed on Swiss or U.S. law.
Genoud, Huber and Islamic Terrorism
What is even more surprising than finding out the links between Rochat and Dunand with a representative of the Iran-Contra affair like Zucker is finding a connection point between Islamic terrorism and the far right. For it turns out that Baudoin Dunand was not only the attorney for Francois Genoud, the Swiss old Nazi who died in 1996, but also his close friend.
[Note: For the purpose of brevity I will not summarize information on the old Swiss Nazi banker Genoud mentioned in the Dohnanyi book that is contained in my Hit List article entitled “The Mysterious Achmed Huber: Friend to Hitler, Allah ... and bin Laden?” now available on the web or the appendix devoted to Genoud in my book Dreamer of the Day: Francis Parker Yockey and the Postwar Fascist International. Also note: There are many different variations given for the spelling of Huber’s adapted Muslim first name including “Achmed,” “Ahmed,” “Ahmet,” and “Ahmad “(the one technically correct).]
Returning to the Dohnanyi book: On July 21, 1988, at the bureau of a Lugano-based notary named Gianluca Boscaro gathered Huber, the Swiss professor (Hochschulleher) Mohammed Mansour and his wife Zeinab Mansour Fattouh as well as the Tunisian Youssef Nada and Ali Ghaleb Himmat, who both live in the Italian enclave of Campione d’Italia in Switzerland. Himmat had come from Damascus in 1958 and first settled down in Germany and then in Austria. The Alexandrian-born Egyptian Nada two years later came first to Austria and then to Germany. Nada’s oldest daughter married the son of the director of the Islamist center in Aachen, al-Attar Issam, who is considered by the German Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Verfassungschutz) one of the most dangerous Islamists in Germany. Nada later settled down in Ticino (Tessin). Both Nada and Himmat are members of the Muslim Brotherhood and in the 1990s both took Italian citizenship.
The goal of the meeting with the notary was the founding of “al-Taqwa Management Organization SA” that said it would be concerned with importing and exporting various goods around the world. 333 of the 1000 shares (at 100 Swiss Francs a share) went to Mohammed Mansour and his wife. 332 went to Huber. Nada and Himmet took the rest. Mansour was named the president but rarely was it mentioned the clause in the contract papers that each decision must be co-signed by the minority holders N
ada and Himmat. Meanwhile Nada became associated with such prestigious groups as the Pio Manzu think tank, which is located on the Adriatic Coast and includes the likes of Gianni Agnelli and Henry Kissinger.
When Nada was questioned in October 2001 first by the Italian and later by the Swiss public prosecutors he said he was innocent of any involvement in terrorism. Nor could he remember where all the “Zakat” money went. This got a friendly laugh from the officials who could fill his memory lapse with a huge amount of documentation. Youssef Nada and his friends had also founded al-Taqwa Bank in Nassau in the Bahamas. As the “purpose of the enterprise” they listed the care of private investments of the shareholders as well as expected clients in the carrying out of Scharia Law given in the Islamic banking world. Among the 500 shareholders besides Huber, Himmat and Nada were “also a notorious right extremist from Italy” [not further identified but this is Alessandro Karim Abdul Ghe — KC] and three members of the bin Laden family. [For the most detailed discussion of the list of al-Taqwa Bank shareholders in English see Lucy Komisar, “Shareholders in the Bank of Terror” published in Salon and on the web.]
The al-Taqwa Group also spread out to firms in Liechtenstein and Great Britain and it soon developed contacts in many lands. It followed the teaching of the Koran and gave 2.5845% of its profits as Zakat that came to $300,000 in 1992 and two years later was around $1.6 million. The money went into accounts in the Akida Bank in Nassau, Creditanstalt Bankverein in Vienna, the Al Rajht Banking and Investment Corporation in Saudi Arabia and the Finance House of Safat in Kuwait. A great part went to the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO). From there investigators can follow the trail again to groups from al-Qaida. Other Zakat money went to Tunisian fundamentalist groups that likewise had ties to bin Laden. According to Italian investigation reports from the police, the Al-Taqwa Group financed Islamic extremist in Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Yemen, Sudan and Afghanistan. Also it supported the Muslim Brotherhood, the Algerian GIA and even the Abu Nidal Group.
Ahmed Idris Nasreddin
Investigators were especially interested in Youssef Nada’s ties to Akita Bank, which shared the same address as al Taqwa at Devaux Street, Nr. 10 in Nassau. The Akita Bank belongs to the financial Imperium of the Milan-based Kuwaiti named Ahmed Idris Nasreddin and his sons. And Nasreddin was not only an important shareowner in Al Taqwa Bank. His connections to Al Taqwa were so close that their employees worked at the same time in the business affairs of both operations. Nasreddin is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood as well. And just as Nada has connections to think tanks so Nasreddin has ties to high circles in Italian politics.
Gustavo Selva belongs to Nasreddin’s wider circle. The former journalist and today parliamentary member of the post fascist Partei Allenza Nationale, Selva was until April 19, 1999, involved in the Roman-based business, the Arab-Italian Consulting House. Six months before it went under, on September 18, 1998, a certain Sergio Marini was named the firm’s official receiver. Marini was, together with the Nasreddin International Group Limited Holdings, also part of the Milan-registered Line Investment srl. Since 1988 Marini was CEO of “L.I.N.E. Development Light Industry and Environment Development srl” in Rome whose administrative director was Abduhrahim Nasreddin along with his deputy Ghaleb Himmat, himself a founder of al-Taqwa Group.
On September 12, 1977 Ahmed Idris Nasreddin – in the bureau of the Liechtenstein Rechta Treuhand-Anstalt in Vaduz – also founded the Nasreddin International Group Limited Holding (Nasco). The founding capital of 100,000 Swiss francs came from an account that had been included a week before in a branch of Banco di Roma in Chiasso.
Only in the second half of the 1990s did anyone begin to pay attention to any of these developments when the role the Milan-based Islamic Center on Viale Jenner 50 played in the recruitment of Mujahiddin during the Bosnian war caught attention. The center’s Imam had been “liquidiert” by the Croatian secret service in 1995 in an operation against Islamic fighters in Bosnia. After the war the back house of the mosque served as a meeting point for al-Qaida fighters from around the world. From here again and again there were calls to the central al-Qaida group in Afghanistan. And it was Ahmed Idris Nasreddin who paid the rent for the Center. A series of businesses of the Nasreddin Group, as well as construction worker cooperative “Paradisio,” also had direct contact with the mosque.
The Italian investigators of all this not always understood Nasreddin’s investments in an economic sense. There was a ship that was supposed to carry dates that spent five months going back and forth between the Italian and Adriatic Coast. Or the more than 100 kilos of oranges that were flown into Italy. The investigators even found that the devout Muslim Nasreddin had ordered an entire cargo of pig’s meat. The investigators believed Nasreddin was concealing his real operations via apparently senseless business activities.
The deeper investigators dug the more senseless it seemed. For example: The Liechtenstein-registered Nasreddin International Limited Holdings on October 20, 1994, decided to change its name to Middle East and Turkey Investment Holding Ltd. And then eight days later it returned to its original name. There is also the fact that Nasreddin at the founding of the Nasreddin International Group Limited Holding in January 1977 appointed – next to Dr. Enrico Walser as trustee– of all people the Ticino lawyer Dr. Ercole Doninelli to the administrative board. Doninelli until his death was seen as the “soul” of the Lugano finance society Fimo that was widely involved in the financial scandals of the 1990s. Fimo helped Italians to send up to 250 million Swiss francs yearly in capital flight. Even more definitive is the role Fimo has played since 1968 in the financing into the millions the first projects of the (at the time utterly unknown) construction builder from Milan, Silvio Berlusconi. The knowledge of how capital from the married pair of Ercole and Stefania Doninelli went from Eti Holdings in Chiasso to more stops in the Interchange Bank and from there to Italcantieri, a company headed by two Berlusconi straw men, finally ended with the mass bankruptcy of Fimo.
Yet the investigation of financial illegal funding by Fimo of Italian parties which was begun in the beginning of 1992 was nothing in comparison to the discovery that Fimo also washed money for the Italian mafia as well as South African drug cartels. Fimo member Giuseppe Lottusi had no problem transferring $12 million from the Sicilian mafia family Madonia to the Columbian Medellin cartel, as the Italo-American mafia member Joe Cuffaro told Palmero investigator Giovanni Falcone in his confession. The scandal affected the president of Fimo, Gianfranco Cotti, who was also a member of the Swiss National assembly, of the Bern regime. (His cousin Flavio Cotti was a member of the Swiss Federal Council where he was Minister for the Department of Foreign Affairs.) Gianfranco Cotti fled Fimo’s administrative council in great haste and avoided investigation.
But Ercole Doninelli wasn’t the only dirty partner involved with Nasreddin International Group Holding Limited. On October 21, 1993, Ercole Doninelli was replaced in the administrative council by his wife Stefania. At the same time the trustee was changed. Instead of Enrico Walser, Nasreddin replaced him with Engelbert Schreiber Sr. Later Engelbert Schreiber Jr. took over his father’s mandate. On March 3, 1997, the Press and Information Bureau of Liechtenstein received an anonymous letter sending information about Engelbert Schreiber Sr. and his involvement in money laundering. The letter (about the principality’s involvement with crim
inal groups like the Italian mafia and the Columbian drug cartel) claimed that the police chief of Liechtenstein was since 1985 in the pay of Medellin Boss Pablo Escobar. The letter said the contact came about through Engelbert Schreiber via the Caracas/Venezuela mafia families Cuntrera, Caruana, and Caldarella with whom Schreiber stands in a close relationship.
Then there was the report from the German BND that cited Schreiber and others who were involved in money laundering without any punishment from Liechtenstein. The principality was upset that the German secret service intercepted telephone calls and siphoned off electronic data from the banks. But after the publication of the BND papers outspoken threat to have the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) of the OECD to put Liechtenstein on the black list of money laundering states worked wonders. Schreiber and some others had a period of shame where they had to distance themselves as trustees in business groups. Was it an accident, the investigators wondered, why the Muslim Brother Ahmed Idris Nasreddin – out of the countless number of Liechtenstein trustees – would choose a man of Engelbert Schreiber’s caliber?
The Akida Bank of Nasreddin was also supposed to be concerned with the spreading of Islamic banking practices. The Lugano-registered affiliate of the bank listed along with its founder Nasreddin, the Tessino-based Pier Felice Barchi. This attorney had great experience with rich and influential foreign customers. Barchi was also concerned with the Tessino financial interests of Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi and the Saudi minority partner in Berlusconi’s media group Mediaset, Prince al-Waleed al Talal.
Huber and Gun Running
During the investigation of Nasreddin and Nada’s circle, Milan investigators were no more amazed when on September 30, 2000, a Tunisian named Habib Waddani surfaced with the information about Ahmet Huber and his central role with his Islamic friends. Habib Waddani in the spring of 1996 had gone with Rodolfo M., a Zurich-living attorney from Sicily, and met a businessman from the Baltic who made a tempting offer, namely access to the weapons surplus of the former Red Army. There was even talk of possibility of widening the deal to nuclear material from the former USSR. What was lacking was a buyer. The Sicilian brought in an Islamic attorney Kamil B. living in Zurich for advice and he, in turn, called in his good friend Huber. And there was not only an interest in Russian weapons but also a quick solution ready for the logistics part.
In the small town of Lenzburg between Zurich and Olten, according to Waddani, Huber knew two Islamic fundamentalist immigrants from Afghanistan, Shoayb Sharifi and Haji K. Agha Mohammad. They both founded together with two other Afghans, Zemaray Hakimi and Gulam Sakhi on June 30, 1998, the HSS Handelszentrum GmbH. The fifth member of the business was Sharifi’s Zurich-born son Ahmad.
Waddani next gave the police documents that showed that Huber arranged a meeting of the head of HSS with representatives of the aid organization “Mother Teresa Center” in Lucerne. In reality concealed behind the name of the beatified Catholic was a clandestine operation of the Kosovo UCH. The UCH guerillas used the name of the pious nun as camouflage for military supplies in the war in Serbia. Next Huber activated his Muslim brothers in the Nasreddin-financed Milan mosque. They took over the Russian weapons on the Swiss-Italian border in Chiasso and then took them to a port to transport the weapons from Ancona to Albania. So in the summer of 1998 leading Islamists Afghanis took “mechanical substitute parts” from the Red Army from the Baltic to Switzerland and sent it to an apparently Catholic aid organization in Lucerne and then with help from Islamic extremists and the Kosovo drug mafia sent the weapons through Italy to the supply camp of the UCK in Albania. After the end of the war in Kosovo the weapons supply continued. Excess Soviet weapons were also sent on the way to Pakistan and over the border to Al Qaida training camps.
The Italian investigators were able to verify the greatest part of Waddani’s statements. His statements cleared up the mystery of at least two great shipments of Russian weapons to the UCK that during the war in Kosovo were discovered in a truck in the port of Ancona. But there was no indication that HSS took up the offer for nuclear material. But the Swiss, who were informed of the content of Waddani’s statements, conducted a superficial investigation and said there was no valid reason to take action against the Mother Teresa Foundation or to take action against Islamic subversive activities in Switzerland. The HSS went bankrupt three years after the end of the Kosovo war.
In spite of the evidence, Youssef Nada and his friends have been left alone. The Europeans feel that the U.S. has refused to share information with them. Also the Swiss investigators made no progress against al-Taqwa because they got no information from America. There is a final element in this. In the beginning of May 2002 Saudi Arabia’s Interior Minister visited Switzerland. Officially Prince Nayif bin Abdulaziz al-Saud went to Switzerland for health reasons. On one evening the Prince visited Bern. Reportedly the Prince and another leading representative of a different Arab state sent the Swiss a warning that any showing of the books and activities of Arab finance concerns and Islamic organizations would be injurious for the Swiss because deposited capital can be moved to another country. The visit apparently brought results. After the visit the Swiss have said that there is no information or suggestion that either al-Taqwa or the Nasreddin Group was financially involved with 9/11.
How accurate is Schmutzige Geschafte und Heiliger Krieg? To answer this question it should first be noted that both Johannes von Dohnanyi and his wife are longtime journalists with extensive experience in covering foreign affairs. Johannes has worked since 1985 as the Middle East and Balkans correspondent for Weltwoche and currently covers Italian and EU affairs for the paper. His wife Germana (who was born in Milan) has served as the Asia correspondent for Il Giornale/L’Indipendente and as a freelance correspondent in the Balkans. Her work on environmental issues has appeared in Greenpeace magazine.
That duly noted, their book is a work of journalists and not historians. They will often cite a footnote as “an investigator’s report in the possession of the authors” and other such cites that make independent verification almost impossible. Yet given that much of this story remains opaque this is to be expected to some degree. My feeling is that the Dohnanyis have cultivated contacts with professional investigators from different European police agencies who are using them to circulate information that they have not been able to fully establish as fact themselves. Therefore while much of the above needs to be taken with a grain of salt, it can’t be simply dismissed. The purpose of my summary is to let informed students of these matters be aware of the allegations contained in Schmutzige Geschafte so they may form their own independent evaluation of the evidence just as they would with similar books such as Ben Laden: La Verite Interdite.
PART TWO: HUBER, AL TAQWA, AND SAID RAMADAN
Anyone who examines the al-Taqwa affair rapidly comes across the presence of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) as al-Taqwa served as one of the Muslim Brotherhood’s key banking institutions in the West. In order to understand the MB’s presence in the West in general – and Switzerland in particular – it is absolutely necessary to grasp the vital role played by the late Said Ramadan, an extremely famous figure inside the Arab world but virtually unknown in the West.
In his book Dollars for Terror, Richard Lebeviere gives us a critical profile of Said Ramadan. Ramadan married Wafa
Hassan al-Bana and thus became the son-in-law of Hassan al-Bana, the founder of the MB. Ramadan next led a famous brigade of Arab volunteers to fight against Israel in the 1948 war. When Nasser cracked down on the MB in Egypt in 1954, Ramadan relocated first to Saudi Arabia and then to Pakistan. He then moved to Europe after getting Saudi backing for the propagation of Islam in Europe in particular. At first, Ramadan opened a MB-backed Islamic center in Munich, in part in a reflection of the MB’s collaboration with the Nazis dating back to the late 1930s. [Lebeviere in this regard also cites Egyptian reports that Youssef Nada worked for the Abwehr (German military intelligence) in the 1930s and 1940s. It should also be recalled that Francois Genoud, the Swiss Nazi banker, began developing contacts in the Arab world on behalf of German intelligence beginning in the 1930sl.]
While in Germany Ramadan defended his doctoral thesis on Islamic law at the University of Cologne. However the Saudis advised Ramadan to make Switzerland his main base of operations and at the height of the Algerian war Ramadan opened up what is now a famous Islamic Center in Eaux-Vives near Geneva in 1961. [It was at this center that Achmed Huber first converted to Islam. – KC] Said Ramadan remained a top European leader of the MB until his death in August 1995. This, in effect, means that Nada, Himmat, Nasreddin, and all the other MB leaders associated with al-Taqwa, were essentially in Ramadan’s orbit. As Lebeviere writes, after being condemned in absentia to forced labor for life by the Egyptian government, Ramadan first “settled in Munich, then in Switzerland, where he manages the movement’s fund.” (Italics mine)
Ramadan and Iranian Terrorism
In a May 6, 2002 article in Le Monde, author Piotr Smolar quotes Achmed Huber as saying that he first met Youssef Nada only during the course of a conference organized in Iran in 1988. It was here that Nada approached Huber about participation in the founding of al-Taqwa. The relatively brief time between Huber’s meeting Nada and his participation with al-Taqwa suggests that both men may have been operating for the same larger concern, namely Ramadan’s MB operation in Switzerland.
Equally interesting is that Huber and Nada met in Iran. In the late 1970s it has been reported that the Saudis were said to have decided to stop backing Ramadan’s Swiss center and in 1978 they opened their own group (l’Association Culturelle Islamique de Geneve) because the Saudi monarchy disagreed with Ramadan’s embrace of the Iranian Revolution. [It should be recalled that Huber also became one of the Iranian revolution’s leading Western supporters in the late 1970s.]
Incredibly, in the middle 1970s Said Ramadan actually recruited an American named David Theodore Belfield who later changed his name to Dawud Salahuddin. Salahuddin was a black American who became radicalized and adopted a mixture of third wordlist radicalism and Muslim beliefs. He later served as an assassin for the Iranian government and on July 21, 1980, Salahuddin murdered Ali Akbar Tabatabai, a former press attaché at the Iranian Embassy under the Shah who was living in Bethesda, Maryland, where he helped direct a pro-Shah exile group, the Iran Freedom Foundation. After the assassination, Salahuddin first fled to Geneva and then to Iran.
Salahuddin first encountered anti-Shah and pro-Khomeni Iranian exiles in Washington. However his life really began to change in May 1975 when he met Said Ramadan who was the guest speaker at the Islamic Center, a large mosque on Massachusetts Avenue. [On Ramadan and Salahuddin, see David Ottaway, “The Lone Assassin” published in the Washington Post magazine on August 25, 1996 as well as Ira Silverman, “An American Terrorist” published in The New Yorker, August 5, 2002. Both are available on the web.] Salahuddin and Ramadan then lived together through the summer of 1975 in a house in Washington near Howard University. Salahuddin to this day describes Ramadan as his advisor and spiritual guide. There is also strong evidence that Ramadan was involved with hooking Salahuddin up to the Iranians for the assassination of Tabatabai. Once in Iran, Salahuddin told The New Yorker that he had extensively traveled through the Muslim world as a kind of diplomat for Ramadan and that in 1986 he made “certain representations on behalf of Ramadan to Muamar Qaddafi” through one of Qaddafi’s cousins and in 1995 he “delivered a message from Ramadan to President Burhanuddin Rabbain, in Afghanistan, warning him that the Taliban had ties to the CIA.”
The story of Ramadan and Salahuddin is also remarkable given that (as I document in my article on Huber now on the web), Huber to this day maintains close ties to radical black Islamist fanatics based in Washington, DC., such as Imam Abdul Alim Musa and Sheikh Mohammed al-Asi, both of whom are associated with the pro-Khomeini Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought (ICIT). Both man also maintain good ties to the New Black Panther Party, an organization founded by the late Khallid Mohammad after he split from the Nation of Islam.
Huber and the Mount Pelerin Meeting
Perhaps the most recent remarkable story concerning Huber comes from a brief item in the Swiss tabloid Blick that in an April 26, 2002 article by Alexander Sautter that Huber was involved in a meeting of far-right leaders from Europe. A photo showing Huber with Jean Marie Le Pen accompanies the article. The Blick story (available on the web) is as follows:
Mont Pelerin VD: Christian Cambuzat, the promoter (Scharfmacher) of the right extremist Jean-Marie Le Pen (73): The guru assembles together some of the top leaders of the European right. On the idyllic Mont Pelerin, they debate their crude ideas.
At his secret visit to a spa in Switzerland Le Pen hardly remained alone. Rightist leaders from all over Europe traveled to meet the extremist presidential candidate who was hosted by Cambuzat. Franz Schonhuber (79). Founder of the Republican Party in Germany and a former member of the SS. He talked with Le Pen who constitutes together with Schonhuber the “Front National” Fraction in the European parliament.
Gianfranco Fini (50). Italian post-fascist, Mussolini admirer, and founder of the Allenza National. He also was at the meeting with Le Pen and Schonhuber.
Ahmed Huber (74). The Swiss is on the Bush Administration blacklist... “I met le Pen at Mont Pelerin as he went to Christian Cambuzat’s spa,” Huber told Blick yesterday. At the extremist rendezvous an American far right politician was also supposed to have taken part. [Note: The American is not further identified. – KC] Christian Cambuzat said that Le Pen (after the elections) had again become the sharpest weapon of the “Front National” because Le Pen changed his image from a venomous old man to a “kindly U.S. TV evangelist.” Proudly Cambuzat brags, “With me Le Pen can relax well” [from his political endeavors – KC]. And openly link up with new contacts.
[Although the Blick story does not give details, Cambuzat runs a spa for very rich, the Lemanique de Revitalisation, inside a hotel on the famous Mont Pelerin.]
CONCLUSION: THE NAZI–ISLAMIST CONNECTION?
The overwhelming thrust of this report has been to give the reader a great deal of empirical information that he or she may not have easy access to in order that they may evaluate the claims for themselves. I have avoided drawing any conclusions because I do not feel qualified to draw conclusions about the Islamist financial machinations this report discusses. However I find it impossible not to put out a call for further research involving the overlap between Nazi and Islamist networks that seem to have been in continual contact from the 1930s until today. In the case of Genoud, Huber, and Ramadan this is becoming more and more impossible to avoid.
My own belief is that it is less the apparently fantastic and “James Bond”-like qu
ality of this analysis that is most difficult to understand. The real difficulty is the utter ignorance of most Westerners (Americans in particular) about the very existence of such people as Francois Genoud. Thus when Ernst Backes, one of Europe’s leading experts in money laundering, told the Luxemburg-based economic journal Plus Minus last year that he believed the financial source of funds for the 9/11 terrorists would ultimately be traced back to Swiss bank accounts established by Genoud, few Americans had any idea what Backes could possibly be talking about. For this same reason there has been virtually no independent investigation into SICO’s Baudoin Dunand’s relationship to Genoud or (for that matter) the role that the Syrian-born Muhammad Mardam Bay (believed to be related to a former Syrian foreign minister) has played both as a member of Magnin, Dunand & Associes as well as Bay’s possible links with Genoud. And what does it mean when we are told that Youssef Nada, for example, is believed by Egyptian authorities to have worked for German intelligence in World War II?
It is not at all impossible that networks first developed in the 1930s and who saw their economic power fantastically multiplied in the wake of the enormous hike in oil prices in 1973 are now engaged in trying to enact a major financial shift away from the dollar and Anglo-American financial networks and to shift the vast wealth of the Muslim oil states into a new Euro-based financial network that would vastly increase the power of those banks and financial interests in Europe associated with elements of far right elites that survived World War II relatively intact.
If this were at all the case, it would not be a new development. The very same attempt to develop an independent Saudi-German hookup to subvert the U.S. and British domination of the Saudi oil markets was actually attempted in the mid-1950s. At that time the Saudi royal family – using the advise of the famous German banker Hjalmar Schacht – attempted to employ Aristotle Onassis to transport Saudi oil on new oil tankers that would be constructed in the shipyards of Germany. This attempt to break the Western oil control over Saudi Arabia was finally blocked by the United States, a story well documented in Jim Hougan’s book Spooks (New York: William Morrow, 1978).
The documentation regarding this complex question is there for anyone who wants to examine it. Of course I am NOT attempting to suggest a simple mono-causal explanation for the current crisis. What I am suggesting is that sooner or later these connections between the far right and groups like the Muslim Brotherhood that began in the 1930s and continue today will have to become the subject of serious and sober research in order to help us shed new light on the extraordinary circumstances we are living under today.