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Context of '(1991): Bin Laden Allegedly Stays at London Estate of Saudi Billionaire'

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The Golden Chain list.The Golden Chain list. [Source: Public domain]In March 2002, authorities in Bosnia, Sarajevo, will raid the offices of the Benevolence International Foundation (BIF) due to suspected funding of al-Qaeda (see March 2002). The raid will uncover a handwritten list containing the name of twenty wealthy donors sympathetic to al-Qaeda. The list, referred to as “The Golden Chain,” contains both the names of the donors and the names of the recipients (but does not mention amounts given). Seven of the payments are made to Osama bin Laden. [United Press International, 2/11/2003] Most accounts will be vague on what year the Golden Chain document was written; some say 1988. [Wall Street Journal, 3/18/2003] But counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will say it dates from 1989. [US Congress, 10/22/2003] Al-Qaeda is formed in late 1988 (see August 11-20, 1988). The Wall Street Journal will later note, “The list doesn’t show any continuing support for al-Qaeda after the organization began targeting Americans, but a number of the Saudis on it have been under scrutiny by US officials as to whether they have supported terrorism in recent years.” [Wall Street Journal, 3/18/2003] The donors named include:
bullet The “Bin Laden brothers.” Their first names are not mentioned. They give money to Osama bin Laden. UPI will later point out that “the discovery of this document in Sarajevo calls into question whether al-Qaeda has received support from one of Osama’s scores of wealthy brothers.”
bullet Adel Batterjee, a wealthy Saudi businessman who is also the founder of both BIF and its predecessor, Lajnatt Al-Birr Al-Islamiah. He appears to be mentioned as a recipient three times. [United Press International, 2/11/2003] The US will declare him as a terrorist financier in 2004 (see December 21, 2004).
bullet Wael Hamza Julaidan, a Saudi millionaire and one of the founders of al-Qaeda. He is listed as a recipient. The US will declare him a terrorist financier in 2002 (see September 6, 2002).
bullet Saleh Kamel, a Saudi billionaire, and the majority shareholder of the Saudi conglomerate Dallah Albaraka. In 2003, Forbes will call him one of the richest people in the world. The list has him giving money to Batterjee.
bullet Sulaiman Abdul Aziz al-Rajhi, another Saudi billionaire. The SAAR network, which is named after him, will be raided by the FBI in 2002 (see March 20, 2002). [Emerson, 2006, pp. 400]
bullet Khalid bin Mahfouz, another Saudi billionaire. A lawyer for bin Mahfouz will later say bin Mahfouz did contribute a small amount to fund the mujaheddin in the late 1980s, but only at the behest of the US and Saudi Arabia. [Wall Street Journal, 3/18/2003]

Entity Tags: Sulaiman Abdul Aziz al-Rajhi, Saleh Abdullah Kamel, Benevolence International Foundation, Bosnia, Khalid bin Mahfouz, Adel Abdul Jalil Batterjee, Al-Qaeda, Wael Hamza Julaidan

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The 1999 book The New Jackals by journalist Simon Reeve will report that in the early 1990s, bin Laden “was flitting between Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, London, and Sudan.” Reeve does not say who his sources are for this statement. [Reeve, 1999, pp. 156]
bullet Bin Laden had concluded an arms deal to purchase ground-to-air missiles for anti-Soviet fighters at the Dorchester Hotel in Central London in 1986 (see Mid-1986).
bullet Bin Laden allegedly visits the London mansion of Saudi billionaire Khalid bin Mahfouz around 1991 (see (1991)).
bullet Bin Laden allegedly travels to London and Manchester to meet GIA militants in 1994 (see 1994).
bullet One report claims bin Laden briefly lived in London in 1994 (see Early 1994).
bullet Similarly, the 1999 book Dollars for Terror by Richard Labeviere will claim, “According to several authorized sources, Osama bin Laden traveled many times to the British capital between 1995 and 1996, on his private jet.”
bullet The book will also point out that in February 1996, bin Laden was interviewed for the Arabic weekly al-Watan al-Arabi and the interview was held in the London house of Khalid al-Fawwaz, bin Laden’s de facto press secretary at the time (see Early 1994-September 23, 1998). [Labeviere, 1999, pp. 101]
bullet An interview with bin Laden will be published in the Egyptian weekly Rose Al Yusuf on June 17, 1996. The interview is said to have been conducted in London, but the exact date of the interview is not known. [Emerson, 2006, pp. 423]
bullet In a book first published in 1999, journalist John Cooley will say that bin Laden “seems to have avoided even clandestine trips [to London] from 1995.” [Cooley, 2002, pp. 63]
bullet Labeviere, however, will claim bin Laden was in London as late as the second half of 1996, and, “according to several Arab diplomatic sources, this trip was clearly under the protection of the British authorities.” [Labeviere, 1999, pp. 108]
After 9/11, some will report that bin Laden never traveled to any Western countries in his life. On the other hand, in 2005 a British cabinet official will state that in late 1995 bin Laden actually considered moving to London (see Late 1995).

Entity Tags: Khalid al-Fawwaz, Osama bin Laden

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Khalid bin Mahfouz.Khalid bin Mahfouz. [Source: CBC]Shortly after 9/11, the London Times will report that Osama bin Laden stayed at the London estate of Saudi billionaire Khalid bin Mahfouz. “Sources close to the bin Mahfouz family say that about 10 years ago, when bin Laden was widely regarded as a religious visionary and defender of the Muslim faith, he visited the property and spent ‘two or three days’ on the estate, relaxing in its open-air swimming pool, walking in the grounds and talking to bin Mahfouz. What the men discussed remains a mystery.” Bin Mahfouz was a major investor in the criminal Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), which is closed down around this time (see July 5, 1991). [London Times, 9/23/2001] Bin Laden was also heavily invested in BCCI at the time (see July 1991). There are other reports of bin Laden visiting London around this time (see Early 1990s-Late 1996), and even briefly living there (see Early 1994). The name “bin Mahfouz” appears on the “Golden Chain,” a list of early al-Qaeda financial supporters (see 1988-1989). Bin Mahfouz denies any terrorist link to bin Laden.

Entity Tags: Khalid bin Mahfouz, Osama bin Laden, Bank of Credit and Commerce International

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

BCCI logo.BCCI logo. [Source: BCCI]In early 2001, anonymous US officials will say that when the notorious Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) is shut down in July 1991 (see July 5, 1991), Osama bin Laden suffers a heavy blow because he has put much of his money in the bank and he loses everything he invested there. As a result, he begins to launder money from the drug trade to make up for the lost revenue. He cooperates with Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who is already diverting profits from the Afghan drug trade to help finance Islamic terrorist movements. Others claim bin Laden begins his involvement with the drug trade several years later. [United Press International, 3/1/2001] It also seems that bin Laden’s financial network eventually grows to at least partly replace the role of BCCI for Islamist militant financing (see After July 1991).

Entity Tags: Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Osama bin Laden, Bank of Credit and Commerce International

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

July 5, 1991: Criminal BCCI Bank Is Shut Down

A Time magazine cover story on BCCI.A Time magazine cover story on BCCI. [Source: Time Magazine]The Bank of England shuts down Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), the largest Islamic bank in the world. Based in Pakistan, this bank financed numerous militant organizations and laundered money generated by illicit drug trafficking and other illegal activities, including arms trafficking. Bin Laden and many other militants had accounts there (see July 1991). [Detroit News, 9/30/2001] One money-laundering expert later claims, “BCCI did dirty work for every major terrorist service in the world.” [Los Angeles Times, 1/20/2002] Regulators shut down BCCI offices in dozens of countries and seize about $2 billion of the bank’s $20 billion in assets. BCCI is the seventh largest bank in the world. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the President of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), owns 77% of the bank at the time of its closing. He and the UAE government will end up losing about $8 billion. About 1.4 million people had deposits in the bank and will end up losing most of their money. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 98-99] American and British governments were aware of its activities yet allowed the bank to operate for years. The Pakistani ISI had major connections to the bank. [Detroit News, 9/30/2001] The Bank of England is forced to close BCCI largely because of outside pressure. Beginning in February 1991, the mainstream media began reporting on BCCI’s criminal activities as more and more whistleblowers came forward. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 95] However, as later State Department reports indicate, Pakistan remains a major drug trafficking and money-laundering center despite the bank’s closing. [Detroit News, 9/30/2001] Most of the bank’s top officials will escape prosecution, and remnants of the bank will continue operating in some countries under new names (see August 1991). A French intelligence report in 2001 will suggest the that Osama bin Laden will later build his financial network on the ruins of the BCCI network, oftentimes using former BCCI officials (see October 10, 2001). [Washington Post, 2/17/2002]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, Osama bin Laden, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Bank of Credit and Commerce International, Bank of England, Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

In July 1991, the criminal BCCI bank is shut down (see July 5, 1991), and Osama bin Laden apparently loses some of his fortune held in BCCI accounts as a result (see July 1991). But while bin Laden loses money, he and his future second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri gain influence. Other Islamist militants have been heavily relying on BCCI for their finances, and in the wake of BCCI’s collapse they are forced to bank elsewhere. Author Roland Jacquard will later claim that “following [the bank’s closure], funds [are] transferred from BCCI to banks in Dubai, Jordan, and Sudan controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood. Some of the money [is] handed back to organizations such as the FIS [a political party in Algeria]. Another portion [is] transferred by Ayman al-Zawahiri to Switzerland, the Netherlands, London, Antwerp, and Malaysia.” [Jacquard, 2002, pp. 129] Author Adam Robinson will come to similar conclusions, noting that when BCCI collapses bin Laden has just moved to Sudan, which is ruled by Hassan al-Turabi, who has similar Islamist views to bin Laden. Robinson writes, “Without a system by which money could be transferred around the world invisibly, it would be relatively simple for terrorist funds to be traced. Dealing with this crisis fell to al-Turabi. In desperation he turned to Osama.… The future of the struggle could come to rest on Osama’s shoulders.” Over the next several months, bin Laden and a small team of financial experts work on a plan to replace the functions of BCCI. Bin Laden already knows many of the main Islamist backers from his experience in the Afghan war. “During the summer of 1991 he discreetly made contact with many of the wealthiest of these individuals, especially those with an international network of companies.… Within months, Osama unveiled before an astonished al-Turabi what he called ‘the Brotherhood Group.’” This is apparently a reference to the Muslim Brotherhood. Robinson says this group is made up of 134 Arab businessmen with a collective wealth of many billions of dollars. The network will effectively replace BCCI for Islamist militants. [Robinson, 2001, pp. 138-139] A French report shortly after 9/11 will confirm that bin Laden’s network largely replaces BCCI (see October 10, 2001). Right around this time, bin Laden is seen at the London estate of Khalid bin Mahfouz, one of the major investors in BCCI (see (1991)).

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Bank of Credit and Commerce International, Hassan al-Turabi, Islamic Salvation Front, Muslim Brotherhood

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Shortly after 9/11, unnamed FBI agents will tell a British newspaper that bin Laden stayed in London for several months in 1994. He was already wanted by the US, but “confusion at British intelligence agencies allowed him to slip away.” However, it may not simply have been confusion as British intelligence has a history of not acting on radical Muslim militants in Britain. One Israeli intelligence source will tell the same newspaper, “We know they come and go as they like in Britain. In the past our government has remonstrated with the Home Office but nothing has happened.” [Daily Express, 9/16/2001] A US Congressional Research Service report completed shortly before 9/11 will similarly conclude that bin Laden visited London in 1994. He lived for a few months in Wembley establishing his de facto press office called the Advice and Reformation Committee (ARC), headed by Khalid al-Fawwaz (see Early 1994-September 23, 1998). [Guardian, 9/14/2001] The book Bin Laden: Behind the Mask of the Terrorist by Adam Robinson will also state that bin Laden visits London for three months in early 1994, buying a house near Harrow Road in Wembley through an intermediary. The house will continued to be used by ARC long after he leaves. Bin Laden even attends a football (soccer) game at Arsenal. [Robinson, 2001, pp. 167-168; BBC, 11/11/2001] There are reports that bin Laden visits Britain at other times (see Early 1990s-Late 1996) and even considers applying for political asylum there in 1995 (see Late 1995). Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s second-in-command, is also “said to have lived in Britain for a time after fleeing Cairo, [Egypt, in the 1980s,] but [British ministers] refused Egypt’s request to arrest and extradite him.” [London Times, 9/24/2001]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Khalid al-Fawwaz, Osama bin Laden, UK Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), Advice and Reformation Committee

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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