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1986-October 1999: New Jersey Firm Investors List Is ‘Who’s Who of Designated Terrorists’
BMI Inc., a real estate investment firm based in Secaucus, New Jersey, is formed in 1986. Former counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will state in 2003, “While BMI [has] held itself out publicly as a financial services provider for Muslims in the United States, its investor list suggests the possibility this facade was just a cover to conceal terrorist support. BMI’s investor list reads like a who’s who of designated terrorists and Islamic extremists.” Investors in BMI include: [US Congress, 10/22/2003]
- Soliman Biheiri. He is the head of BMI for the duration of the company’s existence. US prosecutors will later call him the US banker for the Muslim Brotherhood, a banned Egyptian militant group. Biheiri’s computer will eventually be searched and found to have contact information for Ghaleb Himmat and Youssef Nada, leaders of the Al Taqwa Bank, which is founded two years after BMI (see 1988). After 9/11, the US and UN will designate both Himmat and Nada and the Al Taqwa Bank as terrorist financiers, and the bank will be shut down (see November 7, 2001). US prosecutors say there are other ties between BMI and Al Taqwa, including financial transactions. Biheiri also has close ties with Yousuf Abdullah Al-Qaradawi. Qaradawi is said to be a high-ranking member of the Muslim Brotherhood, a shareholder in Al Taqwa, and has made statements supporting suicide bombings against Israel. In 2003, US investigators will accuse Biheiri of ties to terrorist financing. He will be convicted of immigration violations and lying to a federal agent (see June 15, 2003). [Wall Street Journal, 9/15/2003; Forward, 10/17/2003] Biheiri will be convicted of immigration fraud in 2003 and then convicted of lying to federal investigators in 2004 (see June 15, 2003).
- Abdullah Awad bin Laden, a nephew of Osama bin Laden. He invests about a half-million dollars in BMI real estate ventures, earning a profit of $70,000. For most of the 1990s he runs the US branch of a Saudi charity called World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY). He is investigated by the FBI in 1996 (see February-September 11, 1996), and WAMY will be raided by US agents in 2004 (see June 1, 2004). The raid is apparently part of a larger investigation into terrorism financing. In 2001, at least two of the 9/11 hijackers will live three blocks away from the WAMY office (see March 2001). [Wall Street Journal, 9/15/2003; Washington Post, 4/19/2004]
- Nur and Iman bin Laden, two female relatives of Osama bin Laden. Abdullah Awad bin Laden will invest some of their money in a BMI real estate project. While their bin Laden family ties are intriguing, neither have been accused of any knowing connections to terrorist financing. [Washington Post, 4/19/2004]
- Mousa Abu Marzouk. He has identified himself as a top leader of Hamas. The US declares him a terrorist in 1995 (see July 5, 1995-May 1997). BMI makes at least two transactions with Marzouk after he is declared a terrorist. [Wall Street Journal, 9/15/2003]
- Yassin al-Qadi, a Saudi multimillionaire. His lawyers will later claim he has no terrorism ties and had only a passing involvement with BMI and liquidated his investment in it in 1996. However, another company operating from the same office as BMI is called Kadi International Inc. and lists its president as al-Qadi. Al-Qadi is also a major investor in the suspect computer company Ptech (see 1994; 1999-After October 12, 2001). Al-Qadi and BMI head Biheiri have financial dealings with Yaqub Mirza, a Pakistani who manages a group of Islamic charities in Virginia known as the SAAR network (see July 29, 1983). These charities will be raided in March 2002 on suspicions of terrorism ties (see March 20, 2002). Shortly after 9/11, the US will officially declare al-Qadi a terrorist financier (see October 12, 2001). [Wall Street Journal, 9/15/2003]
- Saleh Kamel. BMI allegedly receives a $500,000 investment from the Dallah Al-Baraka banking conglomerate, which is headed by Kamel. For many years before 9/11, Omar al-Bayoumi, an associate of 9/11 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, will receive a salary from Dallah, despite apparently doing no work. Some will accuse al-Bayoumi of involvement in funding the 9/11 plot, but that remains to been proven (see August 1994-July 2001). Kamel reportedly founded a Sudanese Islamic bank which housed accounts for senior al-Qaeda operatives. He is a multi-billionaire heavily involved in promoting Islam, and his name appears on the Golden Chain, a list of early al-Qaeda supporters (see 1988-1989). He denies supporting terrorism. [US Congress, 10/22/2003; Wall Street Journal, 6/21/2004]
- The Kuwait Finance House. According to Clarke, this organization is alleged to be a BMI investor and the “financial arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in Kuwait. Several al-Qaeda operatives have allegedly been associated with the Kuwaiti Muslim Brotherhood, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Suliman abu Ghaith, Wadih El-Hage, and Ramzi Yousef.” In 2003, an apparent successor entity to the Kuwait Finance House will be designated as a terrorist entity by the US. A lawyer for the Kuwait Finance House will later say the bank has never let its accounts be used for terrorism. [Wall Street Journal, 9/15/2003; US Congress, 10/22/2003; Wall Street Journal, 4/20/2005]
- Tarek Swaidan. He is a Kuwaiti, an associate of al-Qadi, and a leading member of the Kuwaiti branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. It is unknown if he has made any denials about his alleged associations. [Wall Street Journal, 9/15/2003]
- Abdurahman Alamoudi. For many years he runs the American Muslim Council, a lobby group founded by a top Muslim Brotherhood figure. US prosecutors say he also is in the Brotherhood, and has alleged ties to Hamas. In 2004, the US will sentence him to 23 years in prison for illegal dealings with Libya (see October 15, 2004). [Wall Street Journal, 6/21/2004; Washington Post, 10/16/2004]
- The International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO) and the Muslim World League, closely connected Saudi charities suspected of financing terrorism. They give BMI $3.7 million out of a $10 million endowment from unknown Saudi donors. The Financial Times will later note, “While it is not clear whether that money came from the Saudi government, [a 2003] affidavit quotes a CIA report that says the Muslim World League ‘is largely financed by the government of Saudi Arabia.’” Both organizations consistently deny any support of terrorism financing, but in early 2006 it will be reported that US officials continue to suspect them of such support (see January 15, 2006). [Financial Times, 8/21/2003] In 1992, a branch of the IIRO gives $2.1 million to BMI Inc. to invest in real estate. The money disappears from BMI’s books. In October 1999, BMI goes defunct after it is unable to repay this money to the IIRO branch. The IIRO branch gives BMI the rest of the $3.7 million between 1992 and 1998. BMI will use the money to buy real estate (see 1992). Eventually, some of this money will be given to Hamas operatives in the West Bank and spent on violent actions against Israel. This will eventually lead to legal action in the US and a seizure of some of the money. [Wall Street Journal, 11/26/2002; Washington Post, 8/20/2003; Washington Times, 3/26/2004; Washington Post, 4/19/2004] By 1992, BMI has projected revenues in excess of $25 million, based largely on their real estate investments in the US. [US Congress, 10/22/2003] In early 1999, months before BMI goes defunct, the FBI hears evidence potentially tying BMI to the 1998 US embassy bombings (see August 7, 1998), but an investigation into this will not be pursued (see Early 1999). It should be noted that BMI had many investors, and presumably most BMI investors would have had no suspicions that their money might be used to fund terrorism or other types of violence.
1989-January 1993: Hamas Trains and Fundraises in US
Hamas is a Palestinian group known both for charitable works benefiting the Palestinian population and suicide attacks against Israeli targets. Hamas was formed in 1987, after a Palestinian uprising began the year before. Some claim that Israel indirectly supported and perhaps even directly funded Hamas in its early years in order to divide the Palestinians politically. For instance, a former senior CIA official will later claim that Israel’s support for Hamas “was a direct attempt to divide and dilute support for a strong, secular PLO [Palestinian Liberation Organization] by using a competing religious alternative.” Hamas begins attacks on Israeli military and civilan targets in 1989 and will begin suicide attacks on these targets in April 1994. The US will not officially declare Hamas a terrorist organization until 1995 (see January 1995). This means that funding Hamas is not a crime in the US before that year, but knowingly participating in or supporting a violent act overseas outside of the rules of war such as a suicide bombing could still potentially result in criminal charges in the US. [United Press International, 6/18/2002; Associated Press, 3/22/2004] Mohammad Salah, a Palestinian-American living in Chicago as a used car salesman, was reputedly trained by Hamas in terrorist techniques, including the use of chemical weapons and poisons, in the late 1980s. Working on the orders of high-level Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzouk, Salah leads a four day Hamas training camp in the Chicago area in June 1990. According to one trainee, the approximately twenty-five trainees study Hamas philosophy, receive weapons training, and learn how to plant a car bomb. Two of the trainees are ultimately selected to fly to Syria, where they undergo more advanced training in making car bombs and throwing grenades. Ultimately, they are sent into Israel to launch attacks. Similar training camps take place in Kansas City and Wisconsin from 1989 through early 1991. Then, Salah is told by Marzouk to change his focus from training to fundraising. In early 1992, Salah receives about $800,000 from Saudi multimillionaire Yassin al-Qadi, and he temporarily invests it in a BMI real estate scheme (see 1991). Between June 1991 and December 1992, Salah repeatedly travels to the Middle East and spends more than $100,000 in direct support of Hamas military activities. He attempts to spend the $800,000 that is still invested in BMI, but BMI is unable to quickly liquidate the investment. Marzouk sends Salah almost $1 million to spend. Salah goes to the West Bank in January 1993 and begins dispersing that money, but he is arrested before the end of the month. With Salah arrested, Hamas needs a new point man to collect and transfer new money raised in the US. Jamil Sarsour, a grocery store owner in Milwaukee, is chosen. It will be reported in 2003 that Sarsour is still living openly in Milwaukee (see June 2-5, 2003) [Chicago Tribune, 10/29/2001; LA Weekly, 8/2/2002; Federal News Service, 6/2/2003]
Mid-1990s: Al-Qadi Claims Good Relationship with Cheney
Saudi multimillionaire Yassin al-Qadi will say in an interview shortly after 9/11, “I have also met with US Vice President and former Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney in Jeddah [Saudi Arabia] when he came for a lecture organized by the Dallah Group. I spoke to him for a long time and we still have cordial relations.” The US had named al-Qadi a supporter of terrorism and frozen his assets two days before (see October 12, 2001). Oussama Ziade, CEO of Ptech, a US computer company that al-Qadi had invested in (see 1994) and that will be raided for suspected terrorism ties (see December 5, 2002), later will claim that al-Qadi “talked very highly of his relationship” with Cheney. Ziade will claim he only knew al-Qadi for a few years starting around 1994, so presumably the contact between al-Qadi and Cheney happens during the mid-1990s. A newspaper will report later that when a Cheney spokeswoman is asked about his possible ties to al-Qadi, she replies that “she had no reason to believe the vice president had met with al-Qadi”. Al-Qadi claims to be a respected businessman who met other important leaders such as ex-President Jimmy Carter. [Arab News, 10/14/2001; Associated Press, 1/3/2003; Computerworld, 1/17/2003] The US will declare al-Qadi a terrorism financier shortly after 9/11 (see October 12, 2001), and the Dallah Group will be accused of funding al-Qaeda (see November 22, 2002).
1991: Portion of Saudi Multimillionaire’s BMI Investment Pays for Hamas Attacks
In 1991, Saudi multimillionaire Yassin al-Qadi transfers $820,000 from a Swiss bank account to the Quranic Literacy Institute, a Muslim charity based in Chicago. The charity uses the money to purchase land in Woodridge, a quiet town on the outskirts of Chicago. Al-Qadi claims the money is an interest-free loan for charitable purposes, but in a June 1998 affidavit, FBI agent Robert Wright will claim the investment is designed to produce money for Middle East terrorism. According to the affidavit, most of about $110,000 in income generated from the Woodridge property goes to Mohammad Salah, an admitted operative of Hamas. Salah is said to give $96,000 of this money to another Hamas operative to buy automatic rifles, pistols, and ammunition. In March 1992, al-Qadi will send an additional $27,000 directly to Salah. The institute will sell the Woodridge property for more than they had paid for it, but they will never repay al-Qadi’s $820,000. [Wall Street Journal, 11/26/2002] In June 1998, the US will seize the Quranic Literacy Institute’s assets (see June 9, 1998). In 2004, a US court will rule that the money from al-Qadi’s original investment was used to fund a Hamas attack in 1996 that killed a US citizen (see May 12, 2000-December 9, 2004). [Wall Street Journal, 11/26/2002]
After January 1993: Wright Begins Investigating Terrorism Financing Inside US
FBI agent Robert Wright is assigned to the FBI’s counterterrorism task force in Chicago. He had joined the FBI three years earlier. [New York Post, 7/14/2004; Washington Times, 7/18/2004] He immediately begins to uncover a wide network of suspected Hamas and al-Qaeda financiers inside the US. Apparently, he gets a key head start from the confession of Mohammad Salah in Israel in early 1993 (see January 1993). Salah names 23 organizations in the US who he says are secretly funding Hamas, and Israel shares this information with US officials. Some of his confession, including the mention of the Holy Land Foundation as a key Hamas funder, is even publicly revealed in a February 1993 New York Times article. [New York Times, 2/17/1993; Federal News Service, 6/2/2003] In the next few years, Wright will uncover evidence that leads him to suspect the following:
- Mousa Abu Marzouk, the political director of Hamas, has been laundering money and fundraising in the US for Hamas (see July 5, 1995-May 1997).
- The Holy Land Foundation charity is secretly financing Hamas suicide bombings (see October 1993; December 4, 2001).
- Saudi multimillionaire Yassin Al-Qadi is funding Hamas (see June 9, 1998).
- Al-Qadi is funding al-Qaeda attacks (see October 1998).
- Several other US residents and entities are also financing Hamas. In 1996, Wright’s investigations will turn into a larger investigation of terrorist financing, code named Vulgar Betrayal (see 1996). It will continue to discover more leads to connect not only to Hamas, but also to al-Qaeda. [New York Post, 7/14/2004]
1994: Ptech Founded with Support from Suspected Terrorism Financiers
Ptech is founded in 1994 by Oussama Ziade, Hussein Ibrahim, and James Cerrato. Ziade came from Lebanon to study at Harvard University. As the Associated Press will describe it, Ptech’s “idea was to help complicated organizations like the military and large companies create a picture of how their assets—people and technology—work together. Then the software could show how little changes, like combining two departments, might affect the whole.” They raise $20 million to start the company. A number of Ptech employees and investors will later be suspected of having ties to groups that have been designated by the US as terrorist organizations: [CNN, 12/6/2002; Wall Street Journal, 12/6/2002; Associated Press, 1/3/2003]
- Yassin al-Qadi, a Saudi multimillionaire. He will invest $5 million of Ptech’s start-up money. The US will declare him an al-Qaeda financier shortly after 9/11 (see October 12, 2001). In 1998, al-Qadi will come under investigation by FBI agent Robert Wright (see October 1998) for potential ties to the 1998 US embassy bombings (see August 7, 1998). Al-Qadi is also a major investor in BMI Inc., an investment firm with connections to a remarkable number of suspected terrorist financiers (see 1986-October 1999). Al-Qadi later will claims that he sold his investment in Ptech in 1999, but there will be evidence he may continue to hold a financial stake after that year, and even after the US will officially declare him a terrorism financier (see 1999-After October 12, 2001). [Wall Street Journal, 12/6/2002; Washington Post, 12/7/2002; Associated Press, 1/3/2003]
- Gamel Ahmed, Ptech’s comptroller in the mid-1990s. One al-Qadi loan Wright will investigate also involves Ahmed. [Associated Press, 1/3/2003]
- Hussein Ibrahim, Ptech vice president and chief scientist. He also serves as vice president and then president of BMI from 1989 until 1995. He has no known direct terrorism finance connections, but it has been reported that al-Qadi brought Ibrahim into Ptech as his representative. [Wall Street Journal, 12/6/2002; WBZ 4 (Boston), 12/9/2002; Associated Press, 1/3/2003]
- Soliman Biheiri. He is the head of BMI and a member of Ptech’s board. US prosecutors will later call him the US banker for the Muslim Brotherhood, a banned Egyptian militant group. He will later be convicted for lying and immigration fraud (see June 15, 2003). [FrontPage Magazine, 6/17/2005]
- Abdurahman Alamoudi. He is one of Ptech’s founders, as well as an investor in BMI. In 2004, the US will sentence him to 23 years in prison for illegal dealings with Libya (see October 15, 2004). [Washington Post, 10/16/2004; FrontPage Magazine, 6/17/2005]
- Muhammed Mubayyid and Suheil Laheir. Neither have any known direct ties to terrorism financing. However, both are longtime Ptech employees whom formerly worked for Care International, a Boston-based suspect Islamic charity (not to be confused with a large international charity having the same name). [Wall Street Journal, 12/6/2002] In 2005, Mubayyid will be charged with conspiring to defraud the US and making false statements to the FBI. Care International had previously been the Boston branch of the Al-Kifah Refugee Center (see [a0493kifahboston]]) and a recruitment office for Mektab al Khidmat (MAK), the precursor organization to al-Qaeda (see 1985-1989). Laheir, Ptech’s chief architect, wrote many articles in support of Islamic holy war. He frequently quoted Abdullah Azzam, bin Laden’s mentor. [Associated Press, 5/13/2005; FrontPage Magazine, 6/17/2005]
- Yaqub Mirza. He is a Ptech investor and on a Ptech advisory board. He directs SAAR, a multi-million dollar network of companies and charities in Herndon, Virginia (see July 29, 1983). In March 2002, US investigators will raid the SAAR network for suspected terrorism ties (see March 20, 2002). In late 2002, the Wall Street Journal will report, “US officials privately say Mr. Mirza and his associates also have connections to al-Qaeda and to other entities officially listed by the US as sponsors of terrorism.” [Wall Street Journal, 12/6/2002; WBZ 4 (Boston), 12/9/2002; Associated Press, 1/3/2003]
- BMI itself directly invests in Ptech. It also gives Ptech a founding loan, and leases Ptech much of its office and computer equipment. [Wall Street Journal, 12/6/2002; Associated Press, 1/3/2003] Ptech president Ziade and other Ptech employees will claim that all of their ties to suspected terrorist financiers are coincidental. By 2002, Ptech will have annual revenues of up to $10 million. [Wall Street Journal, 12/6/2002] Ptech’s potential ties to suspected terrorist financiers will be of particular concern because of its potential access to classified government information (see 1996-1997). [Wall Street Journal, 12/6/2002; Boston Globe, 12/7/2002] Joe Bergantino, a CBS journalist who will be the first to report on Ptech, will say of Ptech in 2002, “The worst-case scenario is that this is a situation where this was planned for a very long time to establish a company in this country and in the computer software business that would target federal agencies and gain access to key government data to essentially help terrorists launch another attack.” [National Public Radio, 12/8/2002]
September 22-27, 1994: Bin Laden’s Brother-in-Law Khalifa Works with Radical Militant Groups
Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden’s brother-in-law, is in the Netherlands at this time. He meets with representatives of:
- The Muwafaq Foundation, a Saudi funded charity operating from the town of Breda, Netherlands.
- The Egyptian militant group Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya (the Islamic Group), led by Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman.
- The Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), an outlawed Islamist political party in Algeria.
What happens in Khalifa’s meetings is unknown, but the next month he opens a branch of the Muwafaq Foundation in the Philippines. [Gunaratna, 2003, pp. 168, 194, 342] Saudi multimillionaire Yassin al-Qadi is believed to be the chief funder of Muwafaq; the US will pronounce him a terrorist financier shortly after 9/11 (see October 12, 2001). The US will later claim Muwafaq funded the Abu Sayyaf militant group in the Philippines (see 1995-1998). A secret 1996 CIA report will claim that Muwafaq has ties to Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya and helps fund mujaheddin fighting in Bosnia (see 1991-1995) and at least one training camp in Afghanistan (see January 1996).
1995-1998: Alleged Ties Between Al-Qadi Charity and Terrorist Groups Are Uncovered; No Action Taken
Beginning in 1995, evidence begins to appear in the media suggesting that a Saudi charity named the Muwafaq Foundation has ties to radical militants. The foundation is run by a Saudi multimillionaire named Yassin al-Qadi.
- In 1995, media reports claim that Muwafaq is being used to fund mujaheddin fighters in Bosnia (see 1991-1995).
- Also in 1995, Pakistani police raid the foundation’s Pakistan branch in the wake of the arrest of WTC bomber Ramzi Yousef (see February 7, 1995). The head of the branch is held for several months, and then the branch is closed down. [Chicago Tribune, 10/29/2001]
- A secret CIA report in January 1996 says that Muwafaq is has ties to the al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya militant group and helps fund mujaheddin fighting in Bosnia and at least one training camp in Afghanistan (see January 1996).
- In February 1996, bin Laden says in an interview that he supports the Muwafaq branch in Zagreb, Croatia (which is close to the fighting in neighboring Bosnia). [Guardian, 10/16/2001]
- A senior US official will later claim that in 1998, the National Commercial Bank, one of the largest banks in Saudi Arabia, ran an audit and determined that the Muwafaq Foundation gave $3 million to al-Qaeda. Both al-Qadi and the bank later claim that the audit never existed. Al-Qadi asserts he has no ties to any terrorist group. [Chicago Tribune, 10/29/2001] In 2003, former counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will elaborate on this allegation, saying to a Senate committee, “Al-Qadi was the head of Muwafaq, a Saudi ‘relief organization’ that reportedly transferred at least $3 million, on behalf of Khalid bin Mahfouz, to Osama bin Laden and assisted al-Qaeda fighters in Bosnia.” [US Congress, 10/22/2003] (Note that bin Mahfouz, a Saudi billionaire, denies that he ever had any sort of tie to bin Laden or al-Qaeda and has not been officially charged of such ties anywhere.) [Bin Mahfouz Info, 11/22/2005]
- Al-Qadi will claim that he shut down Muwafaq in 1996, but it is referred to in UN and German charity documents as doing work in Sudan and Bosnia through 1998. [Guardian, 10/16/2001; BBC, 10/20/2001]
- Shortly after 9/11, the US Treasury Department will claim that Muwafaq funded Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK)/Al-Kifah (the predecessor of al-Qaeda), al-Qaeda, Hamas, and Abu Sayyaf (a Philippines militant group with ties to al-Qaeda), and other militant Islamic groups. [FrontPage Magazine, 6/17/2005]
However, despite all of these alleged connections, and the fact that the US will officially label al-Qadi a terrorism financier shortly after 9/11 (see October 12, 2001), the Muwafaq Foundation has never been officially declared a terrorist supporting entity. An October 2001 New York Times article will say that the reason, “administration officials said, was the inability of United States officials to locate the charity or determine whether it is still in operation.” But the same article will also quote a news editor, who calls Muwafaq’s board of directors “the creme de la creme of Saudi society.” [New York Times, 10/13/2001]
1996: Al-Qaeda Linked Financier Reportedly Gives Money to Bosnian Muslim President Izetbegovic
In 2006, popular Sarajevo magazine Slobodna Bosna will report that Bosnian Muslim President Alija Izetbegovic received nearly $200,000 from Yassin al-Qadi, who will later be officially designated a terrorist financier (see October 12, 2001). Bosnian authorities reportedly discovered the money transfer from a British bank while investigating the Muwafaq Foundation, a charity headed by al-Qadi. The investigation also learned that Muwafaq channeled $15 to 20 million to various organizations, and at least $3 million of that went into bank accounts controlled by Osama bin Laden. [AKI, 9/8/2006] Muwafaq reportedly helped finance the mujaheddin during the Bosnian war, especially supporting a mujaheddin brigade fighting for Izetbegovic’s government that was also called Muwafaq (see 1991-1995).
April 1998: FBI Agent Stifles Investigation into Ptech Figures
FBI agent Robert Wright will later recall that at this time, he is pleasantly surprised when FBI management provides his Vulgar Betrayal investigation with a 10 year veteran agent to assist with his efforts. According to Wright, the unnamed agent is assigned to “investigate a company and its 20-plus subsidiaries which were linked to a major financer of international terrorism.” However, Wright and fellow agent John Vincent will soon become dismayed when they realize the agent is not actually doing any work. He merely shuffles papers to look busy when people walk by. He will continue to do no work on this important assignment until the Vulgar Betrayal investigation is effectively shut down one year later (see August 3, 1999). Wright will claim in 2003, “The important assignment he was given involved both the founder and the financier of Ptech.” Presumably these could be references to Oussama Ziade, the president and chief founder of Ptech, and Yassin al-Qadi, apparently Ptech’s largest investor. [Federal News Service, 6/2/2003]
June 9, 1998: US Seizes Funds Connected to Hamas Operative and Al-Qadi
FBI agent Robert Wright, apparently frustrated that his Vulgar Betrayal investigation is not allowed to criminally charge Hamas operative Mohammad Salah and Saudi multimillionaire Yassin al-Qadi, gets a court order to seize $1.4 million in bank accounts and the Chicago house Salah owns. Wright says in the suit that the money is linked directly to al-Qadi and would be destined for terrorist activities. Wright uses a civil forfeiture law that had been frequently used to seize properties and funds of drug dealers or gangsters, but had never been used for accused terrorists. Salah had living in Chicago since his release from an Israeli prison in November 1997. A highly detailed affidavit tracks wire transfers from the US and Switzerland to specific Hamas attacks in Israel. Al-Qadi’s money was deposited in bank accounts controlled by Salah, who is called an important courier and financial agent for Hamas. Then Salah invested the money in BMI Inc., a real estate investment firm with ties to many suspected terrorism financiers (see 1986-October 1999). Some of the money is eventually withdrawn by Salah, brought to the West Bank, and given to Hamas operatives there (see 1989-January 1993). Salah denies the charges and says all the transfers were for charitable causes. Al-Qadi also claims innocence. [New York Times, 6/14/1998; United Press International, 5/30/2002; Wall Street Journal, 12/6/2002] However, a federal judge agrees to the defendants’ request for a stay order, and the suit is said to “languish” in a Chicago federal court. The funds remain frozen and Salah continues to live in his house. [Wall Street Journal, 9/25/2001] During the summer of 2001, the government will negotiate with Salah to settle the civil case, according to court records. [Chicago Tribune, 8/22/2004] The Justice Department will even move ahead with plans to return $1.4 million that Wright had seized from al-Qadi. But the transfer will be set for October 2001, “and the 9/11 attacks came first, prompting wiser minds at Justice to quash the move.” [New York Post, 7/14/2004] But also, in 2000, the parents of a US teenager said to have been killed by a Hamas attack in Israel will sue Salah and others for damaged based on this investigation, and they will win the suit in 2004 (see May 12, 2000-December 9, 2004). The US government will finally arrest Salah in 2004, and will charge him for many of the same offenses described in this 1998 case (see August 20, 2004). As of the end of 2005, al-Qadi has not been charged of any crime.
October 1998: Vulgar Betrayal Investigation Nearly Shut Down
Two months after the US embassy bombings in Africa (see August 7, 1998), FBI agent Robert Wright and his Vulgar Betrayal investigation discover evidence they think ties Saudi multimillionaire Yassin al-Qadi to the bombings. Since 1997, Wright had been investigating a suspected terrorist cell in Chicago that was connected to fundraising for Hamas. They discovered what they considered to be clear proof that al-Qadi and other people they were already investigating had helped fund the embassy bombings. Wright asks FBI headquarters for permission to open an investigation into this money trail at this time, but the permission is not granted. Wright will later recall, “The supervisor who was there from headquarters was right straight across from me and started yelling at me: ‘You will not open criminal investigations. I forbid any of you. You will not open criminal investigations against any of these intelligence subjects.’” Instead, they are told to merely follow the suspects and file reports, but make no arrests. Federal prosecutor Mark Flessner, working with the Vulgar Betrayal investigation, later will claim that a strong criminal case was building against al-Qadi and his associates. “There were powers bigger than I was in the Justice Department and within the FBI that simply were not going to let [the building of a criminal case] happen. And it didn’t happen.… I think there were very serious mistakes made. And I think, it perhaps cost, it cost people their lives ultimately.” [ABC News, 12/19/2002] Flessner later will speculate that Saudi influence may have played a role. ABC News will report in 2002, “According to US officials, al-Qadi [has] close personal and business connections with the Saudi royal family.” [ABC News, 11/26/2002] Wright later will allege that FBI headquarters even attempted to shut down the Vulgar Betrayal investigation altogether at this time. He says, “They wanted to kill it.” [ABC News, 12/19/2002] However, he will claim, “Fortunately an assistant special agent in Chicago interceded to prevent FBI headquarters from closing Operation Vulgar Betrayal.” [Federal News Service, 6/2/2003] He claims that a new supervisor will write in late 1998, “Agent Wright has spearheaded this effort despite embarrassing lack of investigative resources available to the case, such as computers, financial analysis software, and a team of financial analysts. Although far from being concluded, the success of this investigation so far has been entirely due to the foresight and perseverance of Agent Wright.” [Federal News Service, 5/30/2002] When the story of this interference in the alleged al-Qadi-embassy bombings connection will be reported in late 2002, Wright will conclude, “September the 11th is a direct result of the incompetence of the FBI’s International Terrorism Unit. No doubt about that. Absolutely no doubt about that. You can’t know the things I know and not go public.” He will remain prohibited from telling all he knows, merely hinting, “There’s so much more. God, there’s so much more. A lot more.” [ABC News, 12/19/2002]
1999-After October 12, 2001: Al-Qadi Continues to Fund Ptech
After a 2002 US government raid on the offices of Ptech, a Boston based computer company (see December 5, 2002), Ptech officials will downplay any connection between Ptech and Yassin al-Qadi, a multimillionaire suspected of financing groups that have been officially designated as terrorist organizations. For instance, Ptech vice president Joseph Johnson will say al-Qadi had no ties to the company but “may have had something to do with it [in 1994].” Al-Qadi was one of Ptech’s biggest initial investors in 1994, if not the biggest investor (see 1994). [Associated Press, 12/7/2002] However, there is considerable evidence al-Qadi is still involved in Ptech at least through 1999. Company insiders will later tell investigators that they were summoned to Saudi Arabia in 1999 to brief Saudi investors in Ptech. They are introduced to al-Qadi, who is described as an owner of Ptech. A photograph taken at this meeting shows al-Qadi with Ptech CEO Oussama Ziade and others. [WBZ 4 (Boston), 12/9/2002] Most media accounts say al-Qadi invested about $5 million in Ptech in 1994, one quarter of the company’s start-up money. But one account claims that al-Qadi invested an additional $9 million indirectly through BMI, the New Jersey-based investment firm with ties to several individuals suspected of financing Islamic militant groups (see 1986-October 1999). Swiss investigators also allege that al-Qadi transfers $2 million to Ptech between 1997 and 2000. [FrontPage Magazine, 6/17/2005] There are even allegations that al-Qadi continues to support Ptech after the US officially designates him a terrorist financier on October 12, 2001. In late 2002, CNN will report, “Sources said Ptech executives are believed to have been aware of al-Qadi’s suspected connections but did not sever their relationship with him.” [CNN, 12/6/2002] Al-Qadi will deny allegations that he had any interest in Ptech after 9/11. But in late 2002 al-Qadi’s lawyer will concede that it is possible an al-Qadi representative continued to sit on Ptech’s board after 9/11. [Newsweek, 12/6/2002]
August 3, 1999: Wright Removed from Vulgar Betrayal Investigation
Chicago FBI agent Robert Wright is abruptly removed from the Vulgar Betrayal investigation into terrorism financing (see 1996). The entire investigation apparently winds down without his involvement, and will shut down altogether in 2000 (see August 2000). A New York Post article will state, “[T]he official reason was a fear that Wright’s work would disrupt FBI intelligence-gathering. My sources find this dubious: After years of monitoring these individuals, the bureau had likely learned all it could.… [But] conversations with FBI personnel indicate that he was told informally that his work was too embarrassing to the Saudis. In support of this is the fact that Wright was shut down as he seemed to be closing in on Yassin al-Qadi.” [Washington Post, 5/11/2002; New York Post, 7/14/2004] Wright later will claim that a reason he is given for being taken off the investigation is a recent dispute he is having with a Muslim FBI agent who refuses to wear a wire (see Early 1999-March 21, 2000). [Federal News Service, 6/2/2003] He is also accused of sexually harassing a female FBI agent. This charge is investigated and later dropped. [Chicago Tribune, 8/22/2004] Wright is removed from counterterrorism work altogether and remains that way at least through early 2002. [Associated Press, 3/15/2002] In September 1999, he will hire Chicago lawyer David Schippers, famed as House investigative counsel in the Clinton impeachment, to help fight the closure of the investigation. Although Schippers is known as an enemy of President Clinton, Wright will say, “I’m confident President Clinton had absolutely nothing to do with the lack of support and eventual closure of the Vulgar Betrayal investigation.” [Federal News Service, 6/2/2003; CNN, 6/19/2003]
Summer 2000-September 11, 2001: Illegal FBI Activity Leads to Suspension of Surveillance of Al-Qaeda Suspects in US
While monitoring foreign terrorists in the US, the FBI listens to calls made by suspects as a part of an operation called Catcher’s Mitt, which is curtailed at this time due to misleading statements by FBI agents. It is never revealed who the targets of the FBI’s surveillance are under this operation, but below are some of the terrorism suspects under investigation in the US at the time:
- Imran Mandhai, Shuyeb Mossa Jokhan and Adnan El Shukrijumah in Florida. They are plotting a series of attacks there, but Mandhai and Jokhan are brought in for questioning by the FBI and surveillance of them stops in late spring (see November 2000-Spring 2002 and May 2, 2001);
- Another Florida cell connected to Blind Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman. The FBI has been investigating it since 1993 (see (October 1993-November 2001));
- Al-Qaeda operatives in Denver (see March 2000);
- A Boston-based al-Qaeda cell involving Nabil al-Marabh and Raed Hijazi. Cell members provide funding to terrorists, fight abroad, and are involved in document forging (see January 2001, Spring 2001, and Early September 2001);
- Fourteen of the hijackers’ associates the FBI investigates before 9/11. The FBI is still investigating four of these people while the hijackers associate with them; [US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. 169 pdf file]
- Hamas operatives such as Mohammed Salah in Chicago. Salah invests money in the US and sends it to the occupied territories to fund attacks (see June 9, 1998).
When problems are found with the applications for the wiretap warrants, an investigation is launched (see Summer-October 2000), and new requirements for warrant applications are put in place (see October 2000). From this time well into 2001, the FBI is forced to shut down wiretaps of al-Qaeda-related suspects connected to the 1998 US embassy bombings and Hamas (see March 2001 and April 2001). One source familiar with the case says that about 10 to 20 al-Qaeda related wiretaps have to be shut down and it becomes more difficult to get permission for new FISA wiretaps. Newsweek notes, “The effect [is] to stymie terror surveillance at exactly the moment it was needed most: requests from both Phoenix [with the Ken Williams memo (see July 10, 2001)] and Minneapolis [with Zacarias Moussaoui’s arrest] for wiretaps [will be] turned down [by FBI superiors],” (see August 21, 2001 and August 28, 2001). [Newsweek, 5/27/2002] Robert Wright is an FBI agent who led the Vulgar Betrayal investigation looking into allegations that Saudi businessman Yassin al-Qadi helped finance the embassy bombings, and other matters. In late 2002, he will claim to discover evidence that some of the FBI intelligence agents who stalled and obstructed his investigation were the same FBI agents who misrepresented the FISA petitions. [Judicial Watch, 9/11/2002]
August 2000: Vulgar Betrayal Investigation Shut Down
Vulgar Betrayal, the most significant US government investigation into terrorist financing before 9/11, shuts down. FBI agent Robert Wright launched the investigation in 1996 (see 1996) and was removed from the investigation in late 1999 (see August 3, 1999). Apparently the investigation accomplished little after Wright’s departure. [LA Weekly, 8/25/2004; Judicial Watch, 12/15/2004; Robert G. Wright, Jr., v. Federal Bureau of Investigation, 5/16/2005] A March 2000 affidavit named Yassin al-Qadi as a source of terrorist funds in Chicago, but no charges are brought against him. [ABC News, 12/19/2002] Mark Flessner, an assistant US attorney assigned to Vulgar Betrayal in 1996, later will recall, “Vulgar Betrayal was a case where the FBI’s intelligence agents would not cooperate with the criminal agents trying to put these guys in jail. They refused to let us arrest them. They only wanted to watch them conduct their business.” He will also claim that Frances Fragos Townsend, a Justice Department official working a variety of posts, helps close down the investigation. He will say Townsend did not share information but “deliberately obstructed it. And I found that very disconcerting.” He will claim that she completely supports FBI intelligence agents and refuses to share their information with the Vulgar Betrayal investigation. A federal grand jury was impaneled in 1996 to support Vulgar Betrayal, but without the information from FBI intelligence, Flessner did not have enough evidence to return indictments. “I couldn’t even get permission to do the basic things you do, such as collecting phone numbers from their targets’ incoming and outgoing calls, and addresses from their mail.” With the shut down of the investigation in 2000, Flessner will resign from the Justice Department in frustration. After 9/11, Townsend will be appointed President Bush’s Homeland Security Adviser and counterterrorism director for the National Security Council. [LA Weekly, 8/25/2004]
Late January 2001: US Intelligence Told to Back Off from Bin Laden and Saudis
The BBC later reports, “After the elections, [US intelligence] agencies [are] told to ‘back off’ investigating the bin Ladens and Saudi royals, and that anger[s] agents.” This follows previous orders to abandon an investigation of bin Laden relatives in 1996 (see February-September 11, 1996), and difficulties in investigating Saudi royalty. [BBC, 11/6/2001] An unnamed “top-level CIA operative” says there is a “major policy shift” at the National Security Agency at this time. Bin Laden could still be investigated, but agents could not look too closely at how he got his money. One specific CIA investigation hampered by this new policy is an investigation in Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan and his Khan Laboratories. Khan is considered the “father” of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons capability. But since the funding for this nuclear program gets traced back to Saudi Arabia, restrictions are placed on the inquiry. [Palast, 2002, pp. 99-100] Also in early 2001, FBI agent Robert Wright, attempting to pursue an investigation into Saudi multimillionaire Yassin al-Qadi, is told by FBI superiors, “it’s just better to let sleeping dogs lie”(see January-March 2001). Reporter Greg Palast notes that President Clinton was already hindering investigations by protecting Saudi interests. However, as he puts it, “Where Clinton said, ‘Go slow,’ Bush policymakers said, ‘No go.’ The difference is between closing one eye and closing them both.” [Palast, 2002, pp. 102]
October 12, 2001: Additional Suspected Terrorist Supporters’ Assets Frozen
The US and Britain freeze the assets of 39 additional individuals and organizations designated by the US as connected to terrorism. $24 million is seized. The British also freeze the assets of 27 other entities named by the US in late September 2001 (see September 24, 2001). The new list includes 33 individuals and six organizations. Twenty-two of the individuals appeared on the FBI’s latest “most wanted terrorists” list. Saudi multimillionaire businessman Yassin al-Qadi is named (see October 12, 2001). So is Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who will later be identified as the mastermind of 9/11. Five of the names were al-Qaeda leaders on a United Nations list published in March 8, 2001, with a recommendation that all nations freeze their assets. Other countries froze the assets of those on that list before 9/11, but the US did not (see March 8, 2001). [Associated Press, 10/12/2001; Guardian, 10/13/2001; Los Angeles Times, 10/15/2001]
Shortly After October 12, 2001: Software Company Whistleblowers Ignored
Yassin al-Qadi, a Saudi multimillionaire businessman, was officially declared a terrorist financier in October 2001 (see October 12, 2001). [Arab News, 9/26/2002] That same month, a number of employees at Ptech, a Boston-based computer company that al-Qadi and other individuals suspected of financing officially designated terrorist groups invested in (see 1994), tell the Boston FBI about the connections between Ptech and al-Qadi. However, FBI agents do little more than take their statements. A high-level government source later will claim the FBI does not convey the Ptech-al-Qadi link to Operation Greenquest, a Customs Department investigation into al-Qadi and other suspected financiers, and none of the government agencies using Ptech software are warned about the possible security threat Ptech represents. [Boston Globe, 12/7/2002; WBZ 4 (Boston), 12/9/2002] According to a private terrorism expert involved in investigating Ptech at the time, “Frighteningly, when an employee told [Ptech president Oussama Ziade] he felt he had to contact the FBI regarding al-Qadi’s involvement in the company, the president allegedly told him not to worry because Yaqub Mirza, who was on the board of directors of the company and was himself a target of a [Greenquest] terrorist financing raid in March 2002 (see March 20, 2002), had contacts high within the FBI.” [National Review, 5/27/2003] A Ptech investigation will finally begin in 2002 after more whistleblowers come forward (see May-December 5, 2002).
After March 20, 2002-Early 2003: Customs and FBI Battle to Control Finance Investigations
It appears that serious tensions develop between the FBI and Operation Greenquest investigators in the wake of the Greenquest raid on the SAAR network in March 2002 (see After March 20, 2002). The Customs Department launched Greenquest, an investigation into the financing of al-Qaeda and similar groups, weeks after 9/11. In June 2002, the Washington Post will headline an article, “Infighting Slows Hunt for Hidden Al-Qaeda Assets.” [Washington Post, 6/18/2002] With the creation of the new Department of Homeland Security in November 2002 , the FBI and its parent agency the Justice Department are given a chance to gain total control over Operation Greenquest. Newsweek reports, “Internally, FBI officials have derided Greenquest agents as a bunch of ‘cowboys’ whose actions have undermined more important, long-range FBI investigations into terrorist financing.” Meanwhile, “The FBI-Justice move, pushed by [Justice Department] Criminal Division chief Michael Chertoff and Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson, has enraged Homeland Security officials… They accuse the [FBI] of sabotaging Greenquest investigations—by failing to turn over critical information to their agents—and trying to obscure a decade-long record of lethargy in which FBI offices failed to aggressively pursue terror-finance cases. ‘They [the FBI] won’t share anything with us,’ [says] a Homeland Security official. ‘Then they go to the White House and they accuse us of not sharing If they can’t take it over, they want to kill it.’” This battle has a large effect on the investigation into Ptech, a Boston-based computer company with ties to suspected terrorist financiers. When Ptech whistleblowers [approach] the FBI, the FBI “apparently [do] little or nothing in response”(see Shortly After October 12, 2001; May-December 5, 2002). Then Greenquest launched an investigation in Ptech, which culminates in a raid on the Ptech offices in December 2002 (see December 5, 2002). “After getting wind of the Greenquest probe, the FBI stepped in and unsuccessfully tried to take control of the case. The result, sources say, has been something of a train wreck.” [Newsweek, 4/9/2003] Greenquest appears to have been heavily based on the pre-9/11 investigations of FBI agent Robert Wright. The New York Post will report in 2004, “After 9/11, Wright’s work was picked up by David Kane of the US Customs Service, who raided companies owned by [Yassin] al-Qadi, leading to al-Qadi’s designation as a ‘global terrorist’ and to money-laundering indictments of companies in Northern Virginia linked to al-Qadi and Soliman Biheiri (another Wright investigatee). The [Greenquest] indictments rely heavily on Wright’s work.” [New York Post, 7/14/2004] The FBI will eventually win the battle with Homeland Security and Customs, and Greenquest will cease to exist at the end of June 2003 (see May 13-June 30, 2003). [Newsweek, 4/9/2003]
May-December 5, 2002: US Investigators Pressed to Look Into Ptech
In October 2001, Ptech insiders attempted to warn the FBI that suspected terrorist financier Yassin al-Qadi had funded Ptech (see Shortly After October 12, 2001). Then Indira Singh, an employee at JP Morgan Chase bank, develops her own suspicions about Ptech after her bank assigned her to investigate Ptech for a potential business deal. In May 2002, she speaks with the FBI about her concerns. Weeks later, she learns the FBI still has not told any other government agencies about the potential Ptech security threat. She later will recall, “the language, the kind of language law enforcement, counterterrorism, and the FBI agents themselves were using basically indicated to me that absolutely no investigation was going on, that it was totally at a standstill, at which point my hair stood on end.” She contacts a Boston CBS television station, WBZ-TV, and a reporter for the station named Joe Bergantino begins investigating Ptech. [Boston Globe, 12/7/2002; National Public Radio, 12/8/2002; WBZ 4 (Boston), 12/9/2002] Around the same time, a former government official with contacts in the Bush administration tells officials at the National Security Council about the Ptech allegations. By late August, Operation Greenquest then opens its own Ptech investigation. The FBI then tries “to muscle its way back into the probe once it [becomes] clear that [Greenquest is] taking the case seriously.” [Newsweek, 12/6/2002; WBZ 4 (Boston), 12/9/2002] Beginning in late November, US agents begin calling Ptech officials and asking them if they have ties to money laundering, thus tipping them off. Ptech will also be notified when a December raid will be occurring before it happens. [Associated Press, 1/3/2003] WBZ-TV prepared a story on Ptech, but withheld it from the public for more than three months after receiving “calls from federal law enforcement agencies, some at the highest levels.” The station claims the government launched its Ptech probe in August 2002, after they “got wind of our investigation” and “asked us to hold the story so they could come out and do their raid and look like they’re ahead of the game.” [Boston Globe, 12/7/2002; WBZ 4 (Boston), 12/9/2002]
May 5, 2002-July 22, 2004: US Government Fails to Investigate Wright’s Complaints
FBI agent Robert Wright, feeling that he had been gagged by FBI superiors (see September 11, 2001-October 2001), files a formal complaint in early 2002 with the Inspector General’s Office (IGO) of the Justice Department. The IGO probes agency wrongdoing and mistakes. However, the IGO turns him away. On May 5, 2002, the IGO writes that “Mr. Wright raises serious charges concerning the FBI’s handling of a criminal matter relating to suspected terrorists,” but the IGO does “not have the resources to conduct an investigation of [the] anticipated size and scope.” Instead, the IGO recommends Wright to refer his complaints to Congress. The IGO had previously conducted large-scale investigations, for instance looking into the FBI’s alleged mishandling of evidence in the trial of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. David Schippers, one of Wright’s lawyers, scoffs at the IGO’s explanation: “The truth is, they don’t want to investigate FBI dereliction of duty.” The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry will interview Wright in late 2002. [LA Weekly, 8/9/2002] However, neither his name, nor Yassin al-Qadi’s name, nor any details about the Vulgar Betrayal investigation will appear in the Inquiry’s heavily censored 2003 final report. He will not be interviewed by the 9/11 Commission, and neither his name, nor Yassin al-Qadi’s name, nor any details about the Vulgar Betrayal investigation will appear in the 9/11 Commission Final Report in 2004. Supposedly, the FBI “stalled Wright’s appearance before the 9/11 Commission until it was too late for him to appear before its public hearings.” [US Congress, 7/24/2003 pdf file; US Congress, 7/24/2003; DebbieSchlussel (.com), 7/14/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004]
August 25, 2002: CIA Collects No Intelligence About Saudi Arabia
Appearing on NBC’s Dateline, former CIA agent Robert Baer says the US collects virtually no intelligence about Saudi Arabia nor are they given any intelligence collected by the Saudis. He says this is because there are implicit orders from the White House that say: “Do not collect information on Saudi Arabia because we’re going to risk annoying the royal family.” On the same television program, despite being on a US list of suspected terrorist financiers since October 2001, Saudi millionaire Yassin al-Qadi says, “I’m living my life here in Saudi Arabia without any problem” because he is being protected by the Saudi government. Al-Qadi admits to giving bin Laden money for his “humanitarian” work, but says this is different from bin Laden’s militant activities. Presented with this information, the US Treasury Department only says that the US “is pleased with and appreciates the actions taken by the Saudis” in the war on terror. The Saudi government still has not given US intelligence permission to talk to any family members of the hijackers, even though some US journalists have had limited contact with a few. [MSNBC, 8/25/2002]
November 22, 2002: More Defendants Added to Saudi Lawsuit
9/11 victims’ relatives add nearly 50 defendants to their $1 trillion lawsuit against mostly Saudi citizens and organizations (see August 15, 2002). The suit alleges the defendants knowingly provided money and other aid to terrorists, which enabled the 9/11 attacks and other attacks to occur. There are now a total of 186 defendants named in the suit. [Wall Street Journal, 11/22/2002; Los Angeles Times, 11/23/2002] Newly-named defendants include:
- Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef. The suit claims he was engaged in payoffs to al-Qaeda. Additionally, as interior minister he controls the activities of numerous Islamic charities said to help finance al-Qaeda. (His name will later be dismissed from the suit because of diplomatic immunity (see November 14, 2003-September 28, 2005).) [Wall Street Journal, 11/22/2002; Los Angeles Times, 11/23/2002]
- Minister of Defense and Aviation Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud. The suit claims he also was engaged in payoffs to al-Qaeda. (His name will later be dismissed from the suit because of diplomatic immunity (see November 14, 2003-September 28, 2005).) [Wall Street Journal, 11/22/2002]
- The Saudi American Bank, that nation’s second largest financial institution. The suit alleges that this bank, partly owned and managed by Citibank, financed development projects in Sudan benefiting bin Laden in the early 1990s when he was living there. (This bank will later be dismissed from the suit (see November 14, 2003-September 28, 2005).) [Wall Street Journal, 11/22/2002]
- Bank Al Taqwa, for raising, managing, investing, and distributing funds for al-Qaeda. [Los Angeles Times, 11/23/2002]
- Mohamed Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden’s brother-in-law. [Third Amended Complaint. Thomas E. Burnett, Sr., et al. v. Al Baraka Investment and Development Corporation, et al., 11/22/2002 pdf file]
- Yassin al-Qadi. [Third Amended Complaint. Thomas E. Burnett, Sr., et al. v. Al Baraka Investment and Development Corporation, et al., 11/22/2002 pdf file]
- Saleh Kamel and the Dallah al-Baraka Group. [Third Amended Complaint. Thomas E. Burnett, Sr., et al. v. Al Baraka Investment and Development Corporation, et al., 11/22/2002 pdf file]
- Individual members of the bin Laden family, including Bakr bin Laden, Tarek bin Laden, Omar bin Laden, Abdullah Awad bin Laden, and Yeslam Binladin. The suit claims that in the early 1990s, Tarek bin Laden was the general supervisor of the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), a Saudi charity suspected of terrorist ties (see October 12, 2001). [Third Amended Complaint. Thomas E. Burnett, Sr., et al. v. Al Baraka Investment and Development Corporation, et al., 11/22/2002 pdf file]
November 26, 2002: Secret List of Saudi Terror Financiers Is Revealed
In the wake of news that two Saudis living in San Diego, California, may have helped two of the 9/11 hijackers, reports surface that the US has a secret, short list of wealthy individuals who are the alleged key financiers of al-Qaeda and other Islamic militant groups. The Washington Post claims there are nine names on the list: seven Saudis, plus one Egyptian, and one Pakistani. [Washington Post, 11/26/2002] ABC News claims the list consists of 12 names, all Saudis, and says they were financing al-Qaeda through accounts in Cyprus, Switzerland, and Malaysia, among other countries. [ABC News, 11/25/2002] They also claim the Saudi government has a copy of the list. US officials privately say all the people listed have close personal and business ties with the Saudi royal family. [ABC News, 11/26/2002] A secret report by French investigator Jean-Charles Brisard names seven prominent Saudi financiers of terror; the number matches the seven Saudis mentioned in the Washington Post article, though it’s not known if all the names are the same. The Saudis mentioned by Brisard include Yassin al-Qadi, Adel Batterjee, and Wael Hamza Julaidan (who has had his assets frozen by the US.) [US Department of State, 9/6/2002] Brisard says al-Qaeda has received between $300 million and $500 million over the last ten years from wealthy businessmen and bankers. He claims that the combined fortunes of these men equal about 20 percent of Saudi Arabia’s GDP (gross domestic product). [Brisard, 12/19/2002 pdf file; Los Angeles Times, 12/24/2002] However, Brisard’s study has been mistakenly described as a United Nations report. While he submitted the study to the UN, the UN didn’t request it. [Money Laundering Alert, 10/2003] It is also reported that a National Security Council task force recommends that the US demand that Saudi Arabia crack down on al-Qaeda’s financiers within 90 days of receiving evidence of misdeeds and if they do not, the US should take unilateral action to bring the suspects to justice. However, the US government denies this report and calls Saudi Arabia a “good partner in the war on terrorism.” [Washington Post, 11/26/2002] Press Secretary Ari Fleischer says: “I think the fact that many of the hijackers came from that nation [Saudi Arabia] cannot and should not be read as an indictment of the country.” [Radio Free Europe, 11/27/2002]
Late 2002: FBI Agent Wright Not Allowed to Continue His Financial Investigations
Robert Wright, the FBI agent in charge of some groundbreaking investigations into charity fronts before 9/11, has been suspended and under investigation since at least early 2001 (see August 2000 and January-March 2001). However, at this time, his suspension is cleared and he is allowed to work as an FBI agent again. But he is specifically prohibited from working on topics he was investigating before, such as BMI and Yassin al-Qadi. He is not even allowed access to his own files from before his suspension. Wright will later be fired and then reinstated, but it does not appear he is ever able to continue his charity front investigations (see April 30, 2005-October 19, 2005). [Katz, 2003, pp. 186]
December 5, 2002: Software Company with Access to Government Secrets Raided
Federal agents search the offices of Ptech, Inc., a Boston computer software company, looking for evidence of links to bin Laden. A senior Ptech official confirms that Yassin al-Qadi, one of 12 Saudi businessmen on a secret CIA list suspected of funneling millions of dollars to al-Qaeda, was an investor in the company, beginning in 1994. Ptech appears to have connections to other potential terrorist financiers (see 1994). In particular, there seem to be many ties between Ptech and BMI Inc., a New Jersey-based company whose list of investors has been called a “who’s who of designated terrorists and Islamic extremists.”(see 1986-October 1999) [Newsweek, 12/6/2002; WBZ 4 (Boston), 12/9/2002] A former FBI counterterrorism official states, “For someone like [al-Qadi] to be involved in a capacity, in an organization, a company that has access to classified information, that has access to government open or classified computer systems, would be of grave concern.” [WBZ 4 (Boston), 12/9/2002] On the day after the raid, US authorities will claim that Ptech’s software has been scrutinized and poses no danger. But security expert John Pike comments, “When you look at all of the different military security agencies that they have as customers, it’s very difficult to imagine how they would not be encountering sensitive information, classified information.” [National Public Radio, 12/8/2002] The search into Ptech is part of Operation Greenquest, which has served 114 search warrants in the past 14 months involving suspected terrorist financing. Fifty arrests have been made and $27.4 million seized. [Forbes, 12/6/2002] However, the raid appears to have been largely for show. Ptech was notified by US officials in November that they were being investigated, and they were told in advance exactly when the raid would take place.(see May-December 5, 2002). Top officials in the US government appear to have made up their minds before the results of the raid can even be examined. White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer comments on the Ptech raid only hours after it ended, “The one thing I can share with you is that the products that were supplied by this company to the government all fell in the nonclassified area. None of it involved any classified products used by the government. The material has been reviewed by the appropriate government agencies, and they have detected absolutely nothing in their reports to the White House that would lead to any concern about any of the products purchased from this company.” [White House, 12/6/2002] The fact that the raid took place at all appears to have to been due to the persistence of Operation Greenquest investigators, who are engaged at the time in a bureaucratic battle with other investigators over who will control US government investigations into terrorist financing (see After March 20, 2002-Early 2003). Greenquest will lose that battle early in 2003 and get shut down (see May 13-June 30, 2003). No charges will be brought against Ptech, and the company will continue fulfilling sensitive government contracts under a new name (see May 14, 2004).
June 15, 2003: BMI Leader Arrested and Imprisoned
Soliman Biheiri, the former head of BMI Inc., a New Jersey-based investment firm with ties to many suspected terrorism financiers (see 1986-October 1999), had left the US immediately after a raid of the SAAR network in March 2002 (see March 20, 2002). On this day, he returns to the US and is immediately arrested and interviewed by Customs agent David Kane. Biheiri tells Kane that he has longstanding ties to leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, a radical Muslim group banned in Egypt. Agents are able to search his laptop computer, and discover ties with Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzouk. He is also connected to two principals of the banned Al Taqwa Bank (see November 7, 2001), Youssef Nada and Ghaleb Himmat, when their addresses are discovered on his computer as well. Agents say there are “other indications” of connections between Al Taqwa and Biheiri’s company BMI, including financial transactions. [Forward, 10/17/2003; Wall Street Journal, 6/21/2004; Associated Press, 10/12/2004] An e-mail is also discovered showing Biheiri was involved in Saudi multimillionaire Yassin al-Qadi’s financial dealings with Yaqub Mirza, the director of the raided SAAR network. The US froze al-Qadi’s assets in late 2001 (see October 12, 2001). [Wall Street Journal, 9/15/2003] Biheiri will be convicted of immigration fraud in October 2003. He will be convicted again in 2004 for lying to Kane about his ties to Marzouk during his interview. [Wall Street Journal, 6/21/2004; Associated Press, 10/12/2004]
May 14, 2004: Ptech Continues Business with US Government Under New Name
A newspaper article reveals that Ptech, the Boston-based computer company with ties to Yassin al-Qadi and other suspected terrorist financiers (see 1994), is still continuing its business under a different name. The article states, “Although no one associated with the company has been charged, the US attorney’s office has never issued a statement exonerating the company or ending the investigation.” Ptech is now called GoAgile. The company lost many customers in the wake of the widely-publicized raid on its offices in 2002 (see December 5, 2002). However, CEO Oussama Ziade states, “We still have government agencies as customers, including the White House.” [Patriot Ledger, 5/14/2004; FrontPage Magazine, 6/17/2005]
June 22, 2005-December 2005: Swiss Open and Close Investigation on Financier Al-Qadi
In the years since the US declared Saudi multimillionaire Yassin al-Qadi a terrorism financier (see October 12, 2001), no criminal charges have been brought against him anywhere in the world. But on June 22, 2005, it is announced that Swiss prosecutors are pursuing a formal criminal case against him. The case focuses on a series of transactions made between February and August 1998 that were sent from one of al-Qadi’s companies to a firm owned by Saudi businessman Wael Hamza Julaidan. Julaidan reputedly associated with bin Laden in the 1980s. He was placed on US and UN terrorism financier lists in 2002. Over $1 million of the money in these transactions was sent to a Yemeni charity, but allegedly wound up funding al-Qaeda instead. Al-Qadi denies knowing that the money would go to al-Qaeda. [Newsweek, 6/22/2005] It is claimed that some of this money goes to support the 9/11 attacks. However, in December 2005, the Swiss apparently close the case. The Swiss court issues a statement, “Nothing in the file allows one to conclude with sufficient likelihood that Yassin al-Qadi knew or was able to know that the payments he made and for which he is implicated in the Swiss proceedings, could serve to specifically finance the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.” [Arab News, 12/25/2005]
September 19, 2005: US Freezes Assets of Al-Qadi Associate
The US freezes the assets of Abdul Latif Saleh, who is a citizen of both Jordan and Albania. Bin Laden allegedly gave Saleh $600,000 to create “extremist groups” in Albania, and Saleh is also said to be tied to the Islamic Jihad (which merged into al-Qaeda before 9/11). Saleh is also said to be associated with Saudi multimillionaire Yassin al-Qadi (see October 12, 2001). The Treasury Department claims, “Saleh and Qadi had entered into several business partnerships with one another, including a sugar importing business, a medical enterprise and a construction business. Saleh served as the general manager of all of Qadi’s businesses in Albania and reportedly holds 10 percent of the Qadi Group’s investments in Albania.” [Associated Press, 9/19/2005; US Department of the Treasury, 9/19/2005] In the middle of 2004, the Swiss government also froze bank accounts worth $20 million of an unnamed Saudi businessman who is the former president of the Muwafaq Foundation over alleged al-Qaeda ties (see June 25, 2004). Al-Qadi was the founder and main investor of Muwafaq (see 1995-1998). [New York Times, 6/25/2004]