By Stephen Fidler in London
April 27 2005
A Swiss-based businessman accused by the US Treasury of providing financial help to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda carried a Saudi diplomatic passport, according to copies of documents contained in a book published on Thursday in Paris.
The documents include a letter from the US Treasury to the Swiss authorities, which says that al-Qaeda and its leader received financial assistance from the businessman Ali bin Mussalim “as of late September 2001”. They also include a copy of Mr bin Mussalim’s diplomatic passport. The disclosures, contained in Al-Qaeda Will Conquer (Al-Qa’ida Vaincra), by the author Guillaume Dasquié, will be uncomfortable reading for the Saudi government, which has disputed any suggestions of official complicity in the attacks of September 11 2001. The January 2002 letter from George Wolfe, then the US Treasury’s deputy general counsel, says Mr bin Mussalim “has been providing indirect investment services for al-Qaeda, investing funds for bin Laden, and making cash deliveries on request to the al-Qaeda organisation”. The letter links him to the now defunct Bank Al-Taqwa and its founder, Youssef Nada. Both have been named by the US and United Nations as providers of terrorist finance. The existence of the letter has been previously reported by some news organisations, but Mr bin Mussalim’s diplomatic status was not emphasised. According to the book, Mr bin Mussalim was found dead in his residence in Lausanne last June, a month after reports of the US Treasury letter first emerged.
The book draws attention to Mr bin Mussalim’s role as intermediary in negotiations over the €4.3bn ($5.56bn, £2.9bn) Sawari 2 contract, signed in 1994 between the French and Saudi governments to supply frigates to the Saudi navy and for which it says he received €50m in commissions. Mr bin Mussalim’s role in controversial financial dealings goes back to the early 1980s, when US prosecutors accused him and others of attempts to corner the silver market. Other documents cited in the book include a flight manifest of the so-called bin Laden flight, in which members of the bin Laden family were flown out of the US in the days after the September 11 attacks. The manifest shows 29 people aboard the flight that flew to Le Bourget airport from Boston on September 20, after originating in Los Angeles and then flying to Orlando and Washington Dulles airport. This contradicts the number cited in the report of the 9/11 Commission published last year, which said there were 26 people aboard. The manifest shows the aircraft flew on from Le Bourget to Geneva and Jeddah.