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Context of 'September 24, 2001 and After: US Takes No Action Against Bin Laden’s Bank'

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The Guardian reports in May 1993 that the Benevolence International Foundation (BIF) (then known as Lajnat al-Birr al-Islamiyya) has been closed in Saudi Arabia and “its head, Adel Batterjee, a known political activist, has been detained by the police.” The Guardian hints that the shut down is related to pressure from the Egyptian government. This is possibly the only instance of the Saudis shutting down a charity before 9/11. [Guardian, 5/5/1993] Al-Qaeda will determine later in the year that the shut down was because the Saudis had found a link between BIF and al-Qaeda, but an operative will report that the problem has been fixed. [USA v. Enaam M. Arnaout, 10/6/2003 pdf file] Batterjee is also mentioned in a 1992 New York Times article as the chairman of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), flying wounded Saudis fighting in the Bosnian war and giving them free medical treatment. [New York Times, 12/5/1992] BIF stops operating in Saudi Arabia but expands its operations in the US (see 1992-1993). [USA v. Enaam M. Arnaout, 10/6/2003 pdf file] The FBI will not begin to seriously investigate it until 1998 (see 1998). US agents will raid WAMY offices in 2004 for suspected ties to radical militants (see June 1, 2004).

Entity Tags: Adel Abdul Jalil Batterjee, Al-Qaeda, World Assembly of Muslim Youth, Benevolence International Foundation

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The State Department issues a fact sheet on bin Laden, calling him “one of the most significant financial sponsors of Islamic extremist activities in the world today.” The text ties bin Laden to funding specific attacks, such as the attempt to kill dozens of US soldiers in Yemen in 1992 (see December 29, 1992). The fact sheet is also mentions the term “al-Qaeda,” leading to the first media reports using that term the next day (see August 14, 1996). The fact sheet also contains details about bin Laden’s finances, such as the allegation that he co-founded the Al-Shamal Islamic Bank in Sudan in 1990 with a group of wealthy Sudanese and capitalized it with $50 million of his fortune. [US Department of State, 8/14/1996; New York Times, 8/14/1996] Much of this information appears to come from al-Qaeda defector Jamal al-Fadl. The CIA had just finished debriefing him weeks before (see June 1996-April 1997).

Entity Tags: US Department of State, Al-Shamal Islamic Bank, Osama bin Laden, Jamal al-Fadl

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

An operating branch of the Al-Shamal Islamic Bank photographed in Sudan in October 2004.An operating branch of the Al-Shamal Islamic Bank photographed in Sudan in October 2004. [Source: Wayne Madsen]On September 24, 2001, the US freezes the bank accounts of a number of people and businesses allegedly linked to al-Qaeda (see September 24, 2001). However, no accounts at the Al-Shamal Islamic Bank in Sudan are frozen, despite a 1996 State Department report that bin Laden co-founded the bank and capitalized it with $50 million (see August 14, 1996). As the Chicago Tribune will later note, bin Laden has been more closely linked to this bank than to any other bank in the world. [Chicago Tribune, 11/3/2001] On September 26, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) publicly notes that Al-Shamal was able to obtain correspondent accounts with three US banks, as well as many European and Middle East banks, giving Al-Shamal direct or indirect access to US banking. [Senator Carl Levin, 9/26/2001] Al-Shamal claims that it cut ties with bin Laden long ago. However, tipped off by Levin’s comments, one day later a group of computer hackers claim to have hacked into Al-Shamal’s computers, found evidence of existing al-Qaeda-linked bank accounts, and then turned the information over to the FBI. The FBI neither confirms nor denies getting such information. [Washington Post, 10/12/2001] Several days later, it is reported that European banks are quietly cutting off all dealings with Al-Shamal despite the lack of any formal blacklisting of it. [Associated Press, 10/1/2001] The Los Angeles Times will later report that after 9/11, the Sudanese government greatly increased their cooperation with US intelligence in hopes of improving relations with the US. In November 2001, some FBI agents including Jack Cloonan go to Sudan and are allowed to interview the manager at Al-Shamal. Bank records are made available to US investigators as well. Cloonan will later say, “Until then, the Sudanese had a credibility problem with the US, but they gave us everything we asked for.” [Los Angeles Times, 4/29/2005] But multiple sources will later report that, as of late 2002 at least, Saudi multimillionaire Adel Batterjee heads Al-Shamal and is one of its largest shareholders. [National Review, 10/28/2002; Gunaratna, 2003, pp. 112; Chicago Tribune, 2/22/2004] Batterjee had long been suspected of al-Qaeda ties and was even detained by the Saudi government over his al-Qaeda links in 1993 (see 1993). The US will officially designate him a terrorist financier in 2004 (see December 21, 2004). The Chicago Tribune notes that an official US blacklisting of the bank “could well have diplomatic repercussions that the White House… would rather avoid.” A Saudi financial services conglomerate, Dar Al-Maal Al-Islami Trust (DMI), has a major stake in Al-Shamal, and DMI is headed by Prince Mohammed al-Faisal al-Saud, a cousin of the Saudi King Fahd. (His accountant will later be arrested in Spain and accused of being an important al-Qaeda financier (see April 23, 2002).) Other Saudi royals and prominent businesspeople are also invested in DMI. [Chicago Tribune, 11/3/2001] Furthermore, one of the bank’s three founding members and major shareholders is Saleh Abdullah Kamel, a Saudi billionaire and chairman of the Dallah al-Baraka Group. [In These Times, 12/20/2002] Al-Shamal apparently continues to operate and the US apparently has not taken any action against it. It is unclear if Batterjee continues to run it.

Entity Tags: Jack Cloonan, Carl Levin, Dar Al-Maal Al-Islami Trust, Saleh Abdullah Kamel, Al-Shamal Islamic Bank, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Adel Abdul Jalil Batterjee, Al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, Mohammed al-Faisal al-Saud

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The Boston Herald reports: “Three banks allegedly used by Osama bin Laden to distribute money to his global terrorism network have well-established ties to a prince in Saudi Arabia’s royal family, several billionaire Saudi bankers, and the governments of Kuwait and Dubai. One of the banks, Al-Shamal Islamic Bank in the Sudan, was controlled directly by bin Laden, according to a 1996 US State Department report.” A regional expert states, “I think we underestimate bin Laden. He comes from the highest levels of Saudi society and he has supporters at all levels of Saudi Arabia.” [Boston Herald, 10/14/2001] The US has yet to take any official steps against the Al-Shamal bank, and some suggest this is because of its ties to influential Saudi figures (see September 24, 2001 and After).

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Al-Shamal Islamic Bank

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Mohammed Zouaydi.Mohammed Zouaydi. [Source: Agence France-Presse]Spanish authorities arrest Syrian-born Spanish businessman Mohammed Galeb Kalaje Zouaydi, alleging that he is a key al-Qaeda financier. [Chicago Tribune, 5/6/2002] An accountant, Zouaydi is considered to be the “big financier” behind the al-Qaeda network in Europe, according to French investigator Jean-Charles Brisard. From 1996 to 2001, Zouaydi lived in Saudi Arabia and funneled money into a series of companies set up to accept donations. (The source of the donations is unknown.) Around $1 million was then forwarded to al-Qaeda agents throughout Europe, especially to Germany. Mohamed Atta’s Hamburg apartment telephone number was saved in the cell phone memory of one of Zouaydi’s associates. [Agence France-Presse, 9/20/2002] Zouaydi also allegedly sent money to Mamoun Darkazanli, a Syrian-born businessman who has admitted knowing Atta and others in the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell. Before 9/11, Spanish intelligence monitored Darkazanli several times as he traveled to Spain and met with Zouaydi and others (see August 1998-September 11, 2001). [Chicago Tribune, 5/6/2002] One of Zouaydi’s employees in Spain visited the WTC in 1997. While there, he extensively videotaped the buildings. Perhaps only coincidentally, while in Saudi Arabia, Zouaydi “was an accountant for the al-Faisal branch of the Saudi royal family, including Prince Mohammed al-Faisal al-Saud and Prince Turki al-Faisal.” [Agence France-Presse, 9/20/2002] Al-Faisal al-Saud also has a large financial stake in a Sudanese bank allegedly co-founded by and closely linked to Osama bin Laden (see September 24, 2001 and After).

Entity Tags: Mamoun Darkazanli, Mohammed al-Faisal al-Saud, Germany, World Trade Center, Al-Qaeda, Turki al-Faisal, Mohamed Atta, Mohammed Galeb Kalaje Zouaydi, Syria

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The US Treasury Department and UN designate Adel Batterjee a global terrorist. Batterjee is connected to the Benevolence International Foundation (BIF). The Treasury Department says that Batterjee “has ranked as one of the world’s foremost terrorist financiers” by helping to fund al-Qaeda. It is not explained why the US waited until this time to list him, but counterterrorism expert Rita Katz suggests that the Saudi government may have changed their stance due to increased al-Qaeda activity in Saudi Arabia. “I think they needed Saudi support, and now it seems to be in place.” However, there is no report of Batterjee being arrested or having his funds frozen in Saudi Arabia. [US Department of the Treasury, 12/21/2004; Chicago Tribune, 12/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Benevolence International Foundation, Adel Abdul Jalil Batterjee, US Department of the Treasury, United Nations, Rita Katz

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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