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Swiss-based al-Qaeda suspect had Saudi passport

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.