Profile: Al Taqwa Bank
Al Taqwa Bank was a participant or observer in the following events:
Ahmed Ben Bella, a former president of Algeria, reportedly holds a secret meeting at his Switzerland home attended by “major figures in some of the world’s most violent groups.” People attending the meeting include the Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman (known as the “Blind Sheikh”); Youssef Nada, head of the Al Taqwa Bank and a major Muslim Brotherhood figure; and Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, a leading Lebanese Shi’ite Muslim scholar. US government sources believe Ben Bella, who is allegedly linked to violent Sudanese and Libyan groups, called the meeting to discuss ways to spread Muslim fundamentalism into the West. [Buffalo News, 7/6/1993] Shortly after 9/11, a document called “The Project” written in 1982 will be found in Nada’s house. It outlines a secret Muslim Brotherhood plan to infiltrate and defeat Western countries (see December 1982).
Francois Genoud (left) and Ahmad Huber, a.k.a. Albert Huber (right). [Source: Seuil, AIJAC]Leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood found the Al Taqwa Bank. This bank will later be accused of being the largest financial supporter of al-Qaeda, Hamas, the GIA in Algeria, and other organizations officially designated by the US as groups that sponsor terrorism. For instance, the Treasury Department will later claim that $60 million in funding for Hamas will pass through Al Taqwa in 1997. The bank is mostly based on both sides of the border between Swizterland and Italy, but important branches are established in Liechtenstein and the Bahamas as offshore tax havens. [US Department of the Treasury, 8/29/2002] Newsweek will explain, “Al Taqwa, which means ‘Fear of God,’ was launched… by leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, a secret society devoted to the creation of a worldwide Islamic government. The Brotherhood wanted to create a financial institution in which devout Muslims could invest their money. It would operate under strict Islamic law, which prohibits banks from charging interest. But investigators believe the convoluted structure of Al Taqwa made it easy to use as a money-laundering mechanism.… The [central] operation consisted of four men working at computers in a small apartment in Lugano, Switzerland. Lugano, which sits near the Italian border, is a kind of Alpine Tijuana, well known as a haven for tax evaders and money launderers.” [Newsweek, 3/18/2002] Reportedly, in 1995, Italian investigators will tell a Swiss prosecutor that Al Taqwa and related entities comprise “the most important financial structure of the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic terrorist organizations.” [Salon, 3/15/2002] Six members of the bin Laden family are among the original contributors to the Bahamas branch. [Wall Street Journal, 12/17/2001] A number of the bank’s leaders have ties to Nazism or fascism. For instance, when board chairman Youssef Nada was a young man, he allegedly worked with both the armed branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and Nazi Germany military intelligence. Ahmad Huber, a Swiss convert to Islam previously known as Albert Huber, is both a director of the bank and an open neo-Nazi. He proudly displays portraits of Adolf Hitler and Osama bin Laden next to each other in his house. [Washington Post, 4/29/2002; Asia Times, 11/8/2002] According to a reporter who will interview him in 1995, Huber’s office is adorned with portraits of Hitler, Nazi leader Heinrich Himmler, and Islamic militants. [Boston Herald, 11/8/2001] Huber will spend decades attempting to forge links between the neo-Nazi movement and the radical Muslim movement, speaking to and networking with both groups. He will be quoted around 2001 saying that the al-Qaeda leaders he met in January 2001 are “very discreet, well-educated, and very intelligent people.”(see Late January 2001). [Financial Times, 11/8/2001; Playboy, 2/1/2002] The founder of Al Taqwa appears to be Francois Genoud, who will die in 1996. Genoud is a Swiss lawyer who funded the Nazis and served as a Nazi agent during World War II. After the war, he funded the secret Odessa organization, which enabled many notorious Nazi fugitives to escape to safe havens in South America and elsewhere. Authorities believe that Genoud uses Al Taqwa to fund international militants like Carlos the Jackal and bin Laden. He also paid for the legal expenses of ex-Nazis such as Klaus Barbie and Adolf Eichmann. Many Muslim radicals and neo-Nazis share a strong hatred for Jews and the United States. [San Francisco Chronicle, 3/12/2002] Al Taqwa will be shut down shortly after 9/11 for its support of al-Qaeda, Hamas, and other groups officially designated as terrorist organizations (see November 7, 2001).
Artist’s sketch of Said Ramadan. [Source: Wall Street Journal]In 1988, the Al Taqwa Bank is founded in Switzerland, and it quickly becomes one of the major funders for radical Islamic groups, including al-Qaeda (see 1988). The Al Taqwa Bank is closely associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, and one of its key founders, Said Ramadan, is one of the Muslim Brotherhood’s top leaders, and also the son-in-law of Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood. Ramadan helped Saudi Arabia found the Muslim World League in 1962; the charity will go on to fund al-Qaeda and many other radical groups. But there is strong evidence that Ramadan also was a long-time CIA asset. [Dreyfuss, 2005, pp. 136] Declassified Swiss documents reveal that in the 1960s, the Swiss government considered him to be, “among other things, an intelligence agent of the British and the Americans.” The Wall Street Journal will report in 2005, “Historical evidence suggests Mr. Ramadan worked with the CIA.” For instance, he traveled on a Jordanian diplomatic passport given to him by the CIA, “his expenditures are financed by the American side,” and he worked closely with CIA supported propaganda fronts. [Mother Jones, 1/1/2006] The Egyptian government apparently also believed Ramadan worked with the US, and that he may have had a role in a plot against Egyptian President Abddul Nasser in the 1960s. Ramadan even met with President Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Oval Office in 1953. [Dreyfuss, 2005, pp. 135-138] Ramadan will die in 1995 at the age of 69. It is not known how long his ties to the CIA and possibly other intelligence agencies lasted. Journalist Robert Dreyfuss will later comment: “It’s no exaggeration to say that Ramadan is the ideological grandfather of Osama bin Laden. But Ramadan, the Muslim Brotherhood, and their Islamist allies might never have been able to plant the seeds that sprouted into al-Qaeda had they not been treated as US allies during the Cold War and had they not received both overt and covert support from Washington.” [Mother Jones, 1/1/2006]
Ahmed Idris Nasreddin. [Source: NBC News]A 1995 Italian intelligence report alleges the Switzerland-based Al Taqwa Bank is funding radical groups in Algeria, Tunisia, and Sudan, and is a major backer of Hamas, but Swiss authorities are slow to investigate. [Salon, 3/15/2002; Forward, 10/17/2003] The Italians are interested in Al Taqwa because of its connection to a radical Italian mosque, the Islamic Cultural Institute in Milan, which Al Taqwa founder and director Ahmed Idris Nasreddin helped create and finance in the early 1990s. The mosque is close to Al Taqwa’s headquarters in Lugano, a town on the border between Switzerland and Italy. It is also connected to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and extremists fighting in Bosnia (see Late 1993-1994) and European investigators increasingly suspect that the Milan mosque is an important general recruiting and supply center for al-Qaeda and other radical militant groups. [Newsweek, 3/18/2002] Reportedly, the Italians tell a Swiss prosecutor that Al Taqwa “comprises the most important financial structure of the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic terrorist organizations.” Italian intelligence also finds links between Al Taqwa and the Milan mosque through Nasreddin. Additionally, two other top officials in the mosque are Al Taqwa shareholders. [Salon, 3/15/2002; Forward, 10/17/2003] Italian officials get the impression that Swiss officials are loathe to look into Al Taqwa. In 1997, the Italians convince a Swiss prosecutor to start questioning Al Taqwa officials. But reportedly, an Al Taqwa lawyer is able to make phone calls to influential people and have the investigation stopped. [Salon, 3/15/2002]
Egyptian diplomat Alaa al-Din Nazmi is shot and killed as he is returning to his house in Geneva, Switzerland. While he is officially said to be negotiating with the World Trade Organization on economic matters, the Independent will later report, “Political sources suggested that Nazmi was working under diplomatic cover, and that his real job was to track down members of Egyptian Islamist armed groups in Europe who have sworn to overthrow President Hosni Mubarak’s regime. Nazmi’s murderers [say] as much two days later,” when they take credit for the killing, using an alias for Islamic Jihad. [Independent, 12/6/1995] Swiss authorities seem uninterested in vigorously pursuing political connections to the murder, which is never solved. However, it will later be reported, “According to various sources close to the investigation, the Egyptian diplomat had been handling several sensitive files relating precisely to the financial resources of the Muslim Brotherhood, of which $200 to $500 was managed by various financial organizations” in Switzerland. The diplomat had played a major part in an attempt to recover these funds. He was focusing on the Al Taqwa Bank on the Swiss-Italian border, known to be a major bank for the Muslim Brotherhood. [Labeviere, 1999, pp. 63-68] A few months earlier, Nazmi apparently had been in secret discussions with the Egyptian militant Talaat Fouad Qassem, who was then abducted by the CIA and executed in Egypt (see September 13, 1995). So Nazmi’s assassination is seen as revenge for the death of Qassem. [Labeviere, 1999, pp. 70-71]
The Al Taqwa Bank had offices in this building in Lugano, Italy, on the border with Switzerland. [Source: Keystone]Newsweek will later claim that US investigators “on bin Laden’s trail” had known about the Al Taqwa Bank in Switzerland and its support for al-Qaeda “for years. But the group’s mazelike structure made it hard to track, and the Feds considered it a low priority.” A senior Treasury official later will tell Congress that US investigators learned in 1997 that Hamas had transferred $60 million into accounts at the Al Taqwa Bank. Also in 1997, US investigators learn the names of many Al Taqwa shareholders. Many of them turn out to be rich and powerful Arabs, including members of the bin Laden family and members of the Kuwaiti royal family (see 1997-December 1999). Newsweek later will claim that, “The US took a harder look at Al Taqwa after the [1998 US] embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). Sources say US intelligence tracked telephone contacts between Al Taqwa and members of bin Laden’s inner circle. Al-Qaeda operatives would call Al Taqwa representatives in the Bahamas as they moved around the world. Still, the network’s complex structure made it difficult to prove how money changed hands, and the investigation stalled. Under US pressure, the Bahamian government revoked Al Taqwa’s license [in the spring of 2001]. Treasury officials say the network continued to do business anyway.” [Newsweek, 3/18/2002] The US will declare Al Taqwa a terrorist financier two months after 9/11 (see November 7, 2001).
Yousuf Abdullah Al-Qaradawi. [Source: Zuma Press/ Newscom]In December 1999, the FBI apparently discovers a list of shareholders in the Al Taqwa Bank that reflects holdings in the bank at that time. The list is later confirmed as authentic by both US and Al Taqwa officials. It contains over 700 names. Youssef Nada, the president of Al Taqwa, will claim that the FBI knew the essential contents of the list in 1997, the same year they learned of other ties between the bank and officially designated terrorist groups (see 1997-September 11, 2001). [Salon, 3/15/2002] Names on the list include:
Yousuf Abdullah Al-Qaradawi, the grand mufti of the United Arab Emirates, and five members of his family. Qaradawi is said to be a high-ranking member of the Muslim Brotherhood and has made statements supporting suicide bombings against Israel (see 1986-October 1999).
Huta and Iman bin Laden, sisters of Osama bin Laden. Salon notes that the presence of their names on the list “undermin[es] the bin Laden family’s claim that it separated itself from [Osama’s] terrorist pursuits after he was expelled from Saudi Arabia in 1994.”
Other bin Laden family members. For instance, Ghalib Mohammad Binladin, a brother of Osama, sues Al Taqwa in 1999 for failing to pay him a claim (the suit is thrown out of court.) [Newsweek, 11/7/2001]
Unnamed members of Hamas, which the US declared a terrorist group in 1995.
Members of Kuwait’s royal family.
Hassan el-Banna, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. (A man with this name founded the Muslim Brotherhood but died in 1949; this may be one of his descendants.) Other names on the list are said to be connected to organizations linked to al-Qaeda. Swiss officials later will admit that they were aware of reports connecting Al Taqwa to terrorist groups, but will claim they never had enough evidence to obtain a search warrant. However, no effective action is taken against the bank or anyone on the list. [Salon, 3/15/2002] The Al Taqwa Bank is said to have amassed $229 million in capital by 1997. In 1995, one of the bank’s directors said that oil-rich Saudi families “are very active” in using the bank. The bank will be shut down after 9/11, when US officials will charge it with funding al-Qaeda and other US-designated terrorist groups (see November 7, 2001). [Boston Herald, 11/8/2001]
The Islamic Cultural Institute in Milan, Italy. [Source: Public domain]By late 1998, US and Italian intelligence are already aware of the importance of a mosque in Milan, Italy, called the Islamic Cultural Institute. After 9/11, the Treasury Department will call the mosque “the main al-Qaeda station house in Europe. It is used to facilitate the movement of weapons, men and money across the world.” Additionally, they are aware that Ahmed Idris Nasreddin, a founder and director of Al Taqwa Bank, is also a founder and financier of the mosque. The mosque is also less than 50 miles away from Al Taqwa’s headquarters on the Swiss border.(see 1995-1997). [Newsweek, 3/18/2002] US officials will later say that al-Qaeda operatives involved in the 1998 US embassy bombings stayed at the Milan mosque. This causes US and Italian intelligence to watch the mosque more closely, and it also causes the US to look closer at Al Taqwa Bank (see 1997-September 11, 2001). [Newsweek, 3/18/2002] One member of the al-Qaeda cell in Milan lives in Hamburg with 9/11 plotter Ramzi bin al-Shibh for most of 1998 (see December 1997-November 1998). In 2000, Abderazek Mahdjoub, the head of the Milan cell, lives in Hamburg, attends the Al-Quds mosque that the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell attends, and has ties with some of the 9/11 hijackers (see 2000). Al-Qaeda operatives involved in the failed millennium bombing plot in Jordan also stay at the Milan mosque (see November 30, 1999). The Jordanian government later will claim that Al Taqwa helped fund these millennium bombers. [Newsweek, 3/18/2002; Newsweek, 4/12/2004] Starting in late 2000, Italian intelligence, wiretapping people associated with the Milan mosque and/or the Milan al-Qaeda cell, record conversations suggesting foreknowledge of the 9/11 plot (see August 12, 2000; January 24, 2001). This information is shared with the US in early 2001 (see March 2001). Additional evidence will come out after 9/11 suggesting some people in Milan had foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks (see September 4, 2001; September 7, 2001). Given the closeness of the Al Taqwa Bank to the mosque, especially through Nasreddin, this raises the possibility of Al Taqwa involvement and knowledge of specific al-Qaeda plots, including the 9/11 attacks, though there is no known evidence of such direct ties except for the attempted millennium bombing mentioned above.
A list of Al Taqwa Bank shareholders as of December 1999 includes Khaldoun Dia Eddine, who is also president of the Committee to Aid Refugees of Bosnia-Herzegovina. [Salon, 3/15/2002] He is said to work closely with Ahmed Idris Nasreddin, one of the top Al Taqwa figures. In 1999, it is alleged that Eddine was also the head of the Gulf Office, an Al Taqwa subsidiary that the Italian government investigated in 1994 for its ties with the GIA, an Algerian militant group connected to al-Qaeda. Eddine also works for Mercy International, a Muslim charity with numerous ties to al-Qaeda and also alleged ties to the CIA (see 1989 and After). By 1999, Eddine is managing the Mercy International office in Tirana, Albania, and is said to be managing “one of the principal channels for weapons delivery for the Kosovo Liberation Army, with the financial and logistic support of the Muslim World League.” [Labeviere, 1999] There is no indication that Eddine is ever later arrested or charged with any crime.
On December 5, 1999, a Jordanian raid discovers 71 vats of bomb making chemicals in this residence. [Source: Judith Miller]Jordanian officials successfully uncover an al-Qaeda plot to blow up the Radisson Hotel in Amman, Jordan, and other sites on January 1, 2000. [PBS Frontline, 10/3/2002] The Jordanian government intercepts a call between al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida and a suspected Jordanian terrorist named Abu Hoshar. Zubaida says, “The training is over.” [New York Times, 1/15/2001] Zubaida also says, “The grooms are ready for the big wedding.” [Seattle Times, 6/23/2002] This call reflects an extremely poor code system, because the FBI had already determined in the wake of the 1998 US embassy bombings that “wedding” was the al-Qaeda code word for bomb. [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 214] Furthermore, it appears al-Qaeda fails to later change the system, because the code-name for the 9/11 attack is also “The Big Wedding.” [Chicago Tribune, 9/5/2002] Jordan arrests Hoshar while he’s still on the phone talking to Zubaida. In the next few days, 27 other suspects are charged. A Jordanian military court will initially convict 22 of them for participating in planned attacks, sentencing six of them to death, although there will be numerous appeals (see April 2000 and After). In addition to bombing the Radisson Hotel around the start of the millennium, the plan calls for suicide bombings on two border crossings with Israel and a Christian baptism site. Further attacks in Jordan are planned for later. The plotters had already stockpiled the equivalent of 16 tons of TNT, enough to flatten “entire neighborhoods.” [New York Times, 1/15/2001] Key alleged plotters include:
Raed Hijazi, a US citizen who is part of a Boston al-Qaeda cell (see June 1995-Early 1999). He will be arrested and convicted in late 2000 (see September 2000 and October 2000). [New York Times, 1/15/2001]
Khalid Deek, who is also a US citizen and part of an Anaheim, California al-Qaeda cell. He will be arrested in Pakistan and deported to Jordan, but strangely he will released without going to trial.
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. He will later be a notorious figure in the Iraq war starting in 2003. [Washington Post, 10/3/2004]
Luai Sakra. The Washington Post will later say he “played a role” in the plot, though he is never charged for it. Sakra apparently is a CIA informant before 9/11, perhaps starting in 2000 (see 2000). [Washington Post, 2/20/2006]
The Jordanian government will also later claim that the Al Taqwa Bank in Switzerland helped finance the network of operatives who planned the attack. The bank will be shut down shortly after 9/11 (see November 7, 2001). [Newsweek, 4/12/2004]
Entity Tags: Raed Hijazi, Abu Zubaida, Al-Qaeda, Al Taqwa Bank, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Khalil Deek, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Abu Hoshar, Jordan, Luai Sakra
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Intelligence Newsletter reports that a number of Osama bin Laden-owed businesses in Sudan are still operating and still controlled by bin Laden. The report specifically mentions Wadi al-Aqiq, El-Hijra Construction and Development, Taba Investment Company, and the Al-Shamal Islamic Bank. Bin Laden’s control of all these businesses were revealed in detail to US intelligence by al-Qaeda informant Jamal al-Fadl several years earlier (see December 1996-January 1997). The report notes that both Mahfouz Walad Al-Walid and his cousin-in-law Mohamedou Ould Slahi, both known al-Qaeda leaders, were reportedly employed in recent years by the El-Hijra company. The report further notes that money for bin Laden “pours into accounts at branch offices of Al Taqwa [Bank] in Malta,” Switzerland, and the Bahamas. Businesses and charities supporting bin Laden “are thriving around the world without any real curb on their operations” because “some US and European agencies hunting him seem to lack zeal” in stopping him. “To be sure, if journalists can track down bin Laden’s friends without too much trouble it can be imagined that law enforcement and intelligence agencies have long found the same connections. Recent anti-terrorism history has shown that when the authorities really want to crack down on an organization they cut off its financial and logistic roots. So why are bin Laden’s backers prospering when the world’s most powerful anti-terrorist organizations are chasing him?” [Intelligence Newsletter, 3/16/2000]
In a January 2002 letter to Swiss authorities, a senior Treasury Department official will claim that the Al Taqwa Bank in Switzerland had set up a highly secretive line of credit for al-Qaeda, and that it is still in use in October 2000. (Apparently its status is unknown after this time.) It states that Al Taqwa “appeared to be providing a clandestine line of credit for a close associate of bin Laden.… This bin Laden lieutenant had a line of credit with a Middle East financial institution that drew on an identical account number at Bank Al Taqwa. Unlike other accounts—even accounts of private banking customers—this account was blocked by the computer system and special privileges were required to access it.” The letter calls the circumstances surrounding the account “highly unusual” and suggests that they were created “to conceal the association of the bin Laden organization with Bank Al Taqwa.” Another document reveals that the account was originally set up for Mamdouh Mahmoud Salim, an al-Qaeda leader who was arrested in Germany in late 1998 (see September 16, 1998). It is believed that other al-Qaeda figures continued to access the account after Salim’s arrest. [US Department of the Treasury, 8/29/2002; Newsweek, 4/12/2004] The US will declare Al Taqwa Bank a terrorist financier in November 2001 (see November 7, 2001).
Four members of the American delegation to the “First Conference on Jerusalem” (from right to left): Ahmed Yusef, Abdurrahman Alamoudi, Yaser Bushnaq, and Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad. [Source: Minaret of Freedom Institute] (click image to enlarge)Hundreds of the world’s most extreme Islamic militants attend an unprecedented conference in Beirut, Lebanon called “The First Conference on Jerusalem.” Participants include leaders of al-Qaeda, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, and militants from Egypt, Pakistan, Jordan, Algeria, Sudan, Qatar, and Yemen. The conference is held with the purpose of uniting militant groups for holy war against Israel and the US. The participants create a new organization called “the Jerusalem Project,” with the goal of winning total Muslim control over Jerusalem. The participants produce a document which calls for a boycott on US and Israeli products and states, “The only decisive option to achieve this strategy [to regain Jerusalem] is the option of jihad [holy war] in all its forms and resistance… America today is a second Israel.” [Jerusalem Post, 6/22/2001; Fox News, 5/17/2002] At least four of the attendees come from the US. One of them, Abdurahman Alamoudi, is a prominent lobbyist in the US for Muslim causes. Yet there is no indication Alamoudi faces any investigation in the US after attending this conference. In fact, in June 2001, Alamoudi will apparently take part in a meeting with Vice President Cheney at the White House for a briefing on the Bush administration’s domestic and foreign policies of interest to the American Muslim community. [Jerusalem Post, 6/22/2001; St. Petersburg Times, 3/11/2003; Minaret of Freedom Institute, 2/8/2005] Another participant in the conference is Ahmad Huber, a director of the Al Taqwa Bank, which will be shut down in the months after 9/11 for suspected terrorism ties. Huber is known for his connections to both neo-Nazi and radical Muslim groups (see 1988). After 9/11, Huber will claim that he met some al-Qaeda leaders in this conference and will praise them for being “very discreet, well-educated, and very intelligent people.” [Financial Times, 11/8/2001; Playboy, 2/1/2002] Huber says that in the five years before 9/11, the bin Laden family sponsors Al Taqwa’s attendance at several international Muslim conferences, possibily including this one. He nonetheless claims the family is estranged from Osama bin Laden. [Le Monde (Paris), 5/3/2002] It has not been reported if Alamoudi met with Huber or any al-Qaeda leaders while at the conference. Alamoudi will later be sentenced to 23 years in prison in the US for illegal dealings with Libya (see October 15, 2004).
Entity Tags: Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Jerusalem Project, Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Air Cess, Ahmad Huber, Al Taqwa Bank, Ariana Airlines, Abdurahman Alamoudi, Hamas, Bin Laden Family
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
The charters of the Bahamas branch of the Al Taqwa Bank and the related Akida Bank are revoked. Al Taqwa’s headquarters in Switzerland will be shut down after 9/11 following accusations that it helped fund al-Qaeda and other Islamist militant groups (see November 7, 2001). [Randal, 2005, pp. 225] The US Treasury Department will later state that the Bahamas branch of “Al Taqwa and Akida Bank are not functional banking institutions in the conventional sense. They are shell companies lacking a physical presence and sharing the same address in the Bahamas where they were licensed.” [US Department of the Treasury, 8/29/2002] Press reports at the time say the closure is the result of Jordanian, French, and US intelligence reports indicating al-Qaeda money coming from Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates had been channeled through Al Taqwa. [Forward, 10/17/2003] Journalist Jonathan Randal will later note that US intelligence on Al Taqwa was solid enough before 9/11 to lead to this closure. “Egyptian, US, and other Western specialists had long suspected this well-known Muslim Brotherhood bank had ties to al-Qaeda as well as to radical Algerian, Egyptian, and Palestinian Islamist groups. One persistent rumor suggested Osama had been bugged telephoning the bank in Nassau, [Bahamas,] in 1996 to discuss rearranging his finances at the time of his departure from Khartoum, [Sudan.]” [Randal, 2005, pp. 225]
In January 2002, the US Treasury Department will send a letter to Swiss authorities stating that Youssef Nada and Ali bin Mussalim, two leaders of the Al Taqwa Bank in Switzerland, provided “indirect investment services for al-Qaeda, investing funds for bin Laden, and making cash deliveries on request to the al-Qaeda organization.” Furthermore, the letter will claim that such assistance continued until “late September 2001,” and that Mussalim carries a Saudi diplomatic passport. Mussalim had been known for controversial financial dealings since the early 1980s, when US prosecutors accused him of taking part in attempts to corner the world silver market. In 1994 he was an intermediary in a multi-billion dollar deal between the Saudi and French governments. He will die of cancer in June 2004, one month after reports of the US Treasury letter first publicly emerged. The Financial Times will call Al-Qaeda Will Conquer, the 2005 book which will be the first to reveal documentation of these claims about Mussalim, “uncomfortable reading for the Saudi government.” [Newsweek, 4/12/2004; Financial Times, 4/27/2005] For many years up to and past 9/11, he held Saudi ministerial status as an “advisor at the Royal Court” and was a close confidant of Saudi King Fahd. The Los Angeles Times will comment, “One is left wondering how the Sept. 11 commission could report that ‘we have found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded [al-Qaeda].’” [Los Angeles Times, 6/26/2005] The US will declare the Al Taqwa Bank a terrorist financier in November 2001 (see November 7, 2001).
Italian police raid Youssef Nada’s villa in Lugano, Italy. [Source: Keystone]The US and other countries announce the closure of the Al Taqwa Bank and the Al Barakaat financial network. President Bush says, “Al Taqwa and Al Barakaat raise funds for al-Qaeda. They manage, invest and distribute those funds.” US officials claim that both entities skimmed a part of the fees charged on each financial transaction it conducted and paid it to al-Qaeda. This would provide al-Qaeda with tens of millions of dollars annually. Additionally, Al Taqwa would provide investment advice and transfer cash for al-Qaeda. Al Taqwa is based in Switzerland while Al Barakaat is based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Over 100 nations are said to be cooperating with efforts to block the funds of these two groups. [New York Times, 11/8/2001] Swiss authorities raid Al Taqwa-related businesses and the homes of bank leaders Youssef Nada, Ali Himmat, and Ahmad Huber, but no arrests are made. In January 2002, Nada will announce that the Al Taqwa Bank is shutting down, due to bad publicity after the raids. He will maintain that he and his organization are completely innocent. [Newsweek, 11/7/2001; Reuters, 1/10/2002] Days after 9/11, Huber called the 9/11 attacks “counterterror against American-Israeli terror,” the World Trade Center a “the Twin Towers of the godless,” and the Pentagon “a symbol of Satan,” yet he will claim to have no ties to the attackers. [Playboy, 2/1/2002; Newsweek, 3/18/2002] In searching Nada’s house, Swiss authorities discover a document entitled “The Project,” which is a strategic plan for the Muslim Brotherhood to infiltrate and defeat Western countries (see December 1982). By late 2002, both the US and UN will declare Al Taqwa Bank, Nada, and Ahmed Idris Nasreddin, another founder and director of the bank, supporters of terrorism. All of their accounts will be declared frozen worldwide. [US Department of the Treasury, 8/29/2002] However, while Al Taqwa itself will be shut down, later reports will indicate that other financial entities operated by the directors will continue to operate freely (see June-October 2005).
US Customs Agents carry out boxes of evidence from SAAR network businesses on March 20, 2002. [Source: Mike Theiler/ Getty Images]Scores of federal agents raid 14 entities in a cluster of more than 100 homes, charities, think tanks, and businesses in Herndon, Virginia, a town just outside of Washington with a large Muslim population. No arrests are made and no organizations are shut down, but over 500 boxes of files and computer files are confiscated, filling seven trucks. This group of interlocking entities is widely known as the SAAR network (it is also sometimes called the Safa Group). SAAR stands for Sulaiman Abdul Aziz al-Rajhi, a Saudi banker and billionaire who largely funded the group beginning in the early 1980s (see July 29, 1983). He is said to be close to the Saudi ruling family and is on the Golden Chain, a list of early al-Qaeda supporters (see 1988-1989). [New York Times, 3/21/2002; Farah, 2004, pp. 152; Wall Street Journal, 6/21/2004] The name and address of Salah al-Rajhi, Suleiman’s brother, was discovered in 1998 in the telephone book of Wadih El-Hage (see September 15, 1998). El-Hage was bin Laden’s personal secretary and was convicted of a role in the 1998 US embassy bombings. [New York Times, 3/25/2002] The raids are said to be primarily led by David Kane, a Customs agent working with a Customs investigation started just after 9/11 code-named Operation Greenquest. Many of the organizations are located at an office building at 555 Grove Street in Herndon. Kane writes in an affidavit for the raid that many organizations based there are “paper organizations” which “dissolve and are replaced by other organizations under the control of the same group of individuals.” [New York Times, 3/21/2002; Wall Street Journal, 6/21/2004] Investigators appear to be primarily interested in the connections between the SAAR network and the Al Taqwa Bank, a Swiss bank closed after 9/11 on suspicions of funding al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups (see November 7, 2001). They are also interested in connections between both SAAR and Al Taqwa and the Muslim Brotherhood (see December 1982). According to author Douglas Farah, “US officials [later say] they had tracked about $20 million from [SAAR] entities flowing through Nada’s Bank al Taqwa, but said the total could be much higher. The ties between Nada and [SAAR] leaders were many and long-standing, as were their ties to other [Muslim] Brotherhood leaders.… For a time, Suleiman Abdel Aziz al-Rajhi, the SAAR Foundation founder, worked for Nada” at Al Taqwa’s Liechtenstein branch. [New York Times, 3/25/2002; Farah, 2004, pp. 154-155] Organizations and individuals targeted by the raid include:
Yaqub Mirza. He is the director of virtually all of the organizations targeted in the raid. The Wall Street Journal claims, “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, 4/18/2002; Wall Street Journal, 12/6/2002]
The SAAR Foundation or the Safa Trust, an umbrella group for the SAAR network. The SAAR Foundation had recently disbanded and reformed as the Safa Trust. [New York Times, 3/21/2002; Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2002; Washington Post, 10/7/2002]
Hisham Al-Talib, who served as an officer of the SAAR Foundation and Safa Trust, had previously been an officer of firms run by Youssef Nada. Nada is one of the main owners of the Al Taqwa Bank. [Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2002]
Mar-Jac Poultry Inc., an Islamic chicken processor with operations in rural Georgia. [Wall Street Journal, 6/21/2004]
Jamal Barzinji. An officer of Mar-Jac and other organizations targeted in the raid, he had previously been involved with Nada’s companies. [Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2002]
The International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO). [New York Times, 3/21/2002]
The Muslim World League. It is considered to be a parent organization for the IIRO. [New York Times, 3/21/2002]
International Institute for Islamic Thought (IIRT). The IIRT had been under investigation since at least 1998. [New York Times, 3/21/2002]
Tarik Hamdi, an employee at IIRT. His home is also raided. He carried a battery for a satellite phone to Afghanistan in early 1998, and the battery was used for Osama bin Laden’s phone (see May 28, 1998). [New York Times, 3/21/2002]
Abdurahman Alamoudi, a top Muslim lobbyist who formerly worked for one of the SAAR organizations. His nearby home is raided. The search yields a memo on large transactions involving Hamas, operations against the Israelis, and the notation “Met Mousa Abu Marzouk in Jordan.” Marzouk is a Hamas leader believed to be involved in fundraising for Hamas in the US for many years (see July 5, 1995-May 1997). Alamoudi is alleged to be a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. [Wall Street Journal, 6/21/2004]
Samir Salah, an Egyptian-born president of the Piedmont Trading Corporation, which is part of the SAAR network. He is also a former director and treasurer of the Al Taqwa Bank’s important Bahamas branch. Additionally, he was a founder of a Bosnian charity reportedly connected to a plot to blow up the US embassy in Bosnia. [New York Times, 3/25/2002]
Ibrahim Hassabella. He is a shareholder of the SAAR Foundation and also a former secretary of the Al Taqwa Bank. [New York Times, 3/25/2002] Investigators will later find that much of SAAR’s money seemed to disappear into offshore bank accounts. For instance, in 1998, SAAR claimed to have moved $9 million to a charity based in the tax haven of the Isle of Man, but investigators will find no evidence the charity existed. One US official involved in the probe will say of SAAR, “Looking at their finances is like looking into a black hole.” [Washington Post, 10/7/2002] In 2003, it will be reported that US investigators are looking into reports that the director of the SAAR foundation for most of the 1990s stayed in the same hotel as three of the 9/11 hijackers the night before the 9/11 attacks (see September 10, 2001). Some US investigators had looked into the SAAR network in the mid-1990s, but the FBI blocked the investigation’s progress (see 1995-1998).
Entity Tags: Operation Greenquest, Muslim World League, Muslim Brotherhood, SAAR Foundation, Samir Salah, Sulaiman Abdul Aziz al-Rajhi, Mousa Abu Marzouk, US Customs Service, Tarik Hamdi, Jamal Barzinji, International Institute for Islamic Thought, International Islamic Relief Organization, Abdurahman Alamoudi, Al Taqwa Bank, Mar-Jac Poultry Inc., David Kane, Hisham Al-Talib, Hamas, Yacub Mirza, Ibrahim Hassabella
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
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 ]
Yassin al-Qadi. [Third Amended Complaint. Thomas E. Burnett, Sr., et al. v. Al Baraka Investment and Development Corporation, et al., 11/22/2002 ]
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 ]
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 ]
Entity Tags: Saleh Abdullah Kamel, Saudi American Bank, Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, Yeslam Binladin, Yassin al-Qadi, Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Abdullah Awad bin Laden, Al Taqwa Bank, Al-Qaeda, Bakr Mohammed bin Laden, Dallah Al-Baraka, Omar bin Laden, Tarek bin Laden
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Yaqub Mirza. [Source: Publicity photo, via Byrd Business Review]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]
A United Nations report criticizes Switzerland for failing to prevent support from reaching al-Qaeda and the Taliban. UN observers claim there is weapons smuggling passing through Switzerland to Afghanistan. The report further claims that the leaders of the banned Al Taqwa Bank (see November 7, 2001) are continuing to do business with new and renamed financial entities. They continue to maintain commercial interests and properties in Italy and Switzerland, despite being on US and UN blacklists. Switzerland is also failing to enforce travel bans. For instance, Al Taqwa leader Youssef Nada was able to travel through Switzerland to Liechtenstein and back in January 2003. [Swissinfo, 12/16/2003] Salon noted in 2002 that, for many years, Al Taqwa has benefited from political connections in Switzerland. Al Taqwa directors have ties to some European far right wing politicians such as French politician Jean-Marie Le Pen, and even neo-Nazi groups (see 1988). [San Francisco Chronicle, 3/12/2002; Salon, 3/15/2002] Newsweek will later report that in 2004, the UN will not convince its members to plug loopholes in the sanctions against Al Taqwa related entities. Instead, the UN Security Council will abolish its own monitoring group. [Newsweek, 3/3/2004; Newsweek, 12/24/2004] In late 2004, the Washington Post will report that although Al Taqwa “was supposedly shut down, US and European officials say they still find Nada moving funds under new corporate names.” [Washington Post, 9/11/2004] Additional reports of entities connected to Al Taqwa directors continuing to do business will appear in 2005 (see June-October 2005).
The 9/11 Commission releases a report on terrorism financing. Its conclusions generally stand in complete contrast to a great body of material reported by the mainstream media, before and after this report. For instance, while the report does mention some terrorism-supporting organizations in great detail, such as the Global Relief Foundation or Al Barakaat, many seemingly important organizations are not mentioned a single time in either this report or the 9/11 Commission Final Report. The Commission fails to ever mention: BMI, Inc., Ptech, Al Taqwa Bank, Holy Land Foundation, InfoCom, International Islamic Relief Organization, Muslim World League, Muwafaq (Blessed Relief) Foundation, Quranic Literacy Institute, and the SAAR network or any entity within it. Additionally, important efforts to track terrorist financing such as Vulgar Betrayal and Operation Greenquest are not mentioned a single time. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 61; 9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 134-5 ] Some select quotes from the report:
“While the drug trade was an important source of income for the Taliban before 9/11, it did not serve the same purpose for al-Qaeda. Although there is some fragmentary reporting alleging that bin Laden may have been an investor, or even had an operational role, in drug trafficking before 9/11, this intelligence cannot be substantiated and the sourcing is probably suspect.” Additionally, there is “no evidence of [al-Qaeda] drug funding after 9/11.” [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 22-23 ]
“[C]ontrary to some public reports, we have not seen substantial evidence that al-Qaeda shares a fund-raising infrastructure in the United States with Hamas, Hezbollah, or Palestinian Islamic Jihad.” [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 24 ]
“The United States is not, and has not been, a substantial source of al-Qaeda funding, but some funds raised in the United States may have made their way to al-Qaeda and its affiliated groups. A murky US network of jihadist (holy war) supporters has plainly provided funds to foreign mujaheddin with al-Qaeda links. Still, there is little hard evidence of substantial funds from the United States actually going to al-Qaeda. A CIA expert on al-Qaeda financing believes that any money coming out of the United States for al-Qaeda is ‘minuscule.’” [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 24 ]
The notion “that bin Laden was a financier with a fortune of several hundred million dollars” is an “urban legend.” “[S]ome within the government continued to cite the $300 million figure well after 9/11, and the general public still [incorrectly] gives credence to the notion of a ‘multimillionaire bin Laden.’” [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 20, 34 ] (A few months after this report, it will be reported that in 2000 over $250 million passed through a bank account jointly controlled by bin Laden and another man (see 2000).)
“To date, the US government has not been able to determine the origin of the money used for the 9/11 attacks.… Ultimately the question of the origin of the funds is of little practical significance.” [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 144 ]
“The US intelligence community has attacked the problem [of terrorist funding] with imagination and vigor” since 9/11. [New York Times, 8/22/2004]
According to the New York Times, the report “largely exonerate[s] the Saudi government and its senior officials of long-standing accusations that they were involved in financing al-Qaeda terrorists.” [New York Times, 8/22/2004] Author Douglas Farah comments on the Commission’s report, “The biggest hole is the complete lack of attention to the role the Muslim Brotherhood has played in the financing of al-Qaeda and other radical Islamist groups. While the ties are extensive on a personal level, they also pervade the financial structure of al-Qaeda.… According to sources who provided classified briefing to the Commission staff, most of the information that was provided was ignored.… [T]he Commission staff simply did not include any information that was at odds with the official line of different agencies.” [Farah, 8/27/2004]
Entity Tags: Muwafaq Foundation, Vulgar Betrayal, Operation Greenquest, Osama bin Laden, Saudi Arabia, Quranic Literacy Institute, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Muslim World League, SAAR Foundation, Muslim Brotherhood, Ptech Inc., InfoCom Corporation, Al-Qaeda, Al Taqwa Bank, 9/11 Commission, BMI Inc., Al Barakaat, Central Intelligence Agency, Douglas Farah, Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, International Islamic Relief Organization, Global Relief Foundation, Hamas
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
The headquarters of Nasco, the Nigerian company owned by Ahmed Idris Nasreddin, are actually located on Ahmed Nasreddin Road. [Source: NBC News]News reports indicate Al Taqwa bankers are able to conduct business globally with few restrictions, despite being on global terrorist financier lists (see November 7, 2001). For instance, Al Taqwa director Ahmed Idris Nasreddin is running a conglomerate in Nigeria that makes a range of goods such as breakfast cereal and beauty products. An MSNBC investigation shows a clear and easily discovered paper trail connecting Nasreddin to the Nigeria companies, and a Nigerian government spokesman says, “He is well known. He is actually the major shareholder” in the conglomerate. But Nigerian officials claim the US has never raised objections or asked Nigeria to take action. In 2003, news reports tied Nasreddin to a prominent hotel in Milan, Italy. Financial records indicate he still owns the hotel. [MSNBC, 6/30/2005] Author Douglas Farah notes that the Geneva, Switzerland, branch of the International Islamic Charitable Organization (IICO) has two Al Taqwa figures as directors. Youssef al Qardawi was a major Al Taqwa investor, and Ghaleb Himmat was a director in the bank. Both are officially designated terrorist financiers. The IICO also operated as part of the SAAR network, which was raided in March 2002 (see March 20, 2002). The IICO’s vice president is Saleh Ibn Abdul Rahman Hussayen, who was a SAAR network official and also stayed in the same hotel as three of the 9/11 hijackers the night before the attacks (see September 10, 2001). Farah comments that these examples show “how ineffective and toothless the international sanctions regime has become. Those on the UN [terrorist financier] list continue to operate freely, presiding over businesses and charities that give them continued access to millions of dollars. The organizations that hire them are not penalized and, in the end, neither are the individuals.” [Farah, 11/7/2005]
Youssef Nada’s office in Lugano, Italy. [Source: Keystone]It is announced that Swiss prosecutors have suspended a three-year investigation into Al Taqwa Bank. The US and UN formally designated Al Taqwa and its founder Youssef Nada as terrorist financiers in November 2001 (see November 7, 2001). The suspension of the Swiss probe has no effect on those designations. Nada is self-acknowledged leader of the militant Muslim Brotherhood movement, but claims no ties to terrorism. [Newsweek, 6/22/2005] Swiss investigators say that the Bahamas government failed to share information about the important Al Taqwa branch based in that country. They claim that was the decisive factor in not bringing a case. Additionally, Al Taqwa’s Swiss financial records were all shipped to Saudi Arabia, and the Saudi government has not been cooperative in getting them back. [Swissinfo, 6/2/2005]
Youssef Nada in 2007. [Source: PBS]Egypt freezes the assets of dozens of top Muslim Brotherhood figures and then announces that 40 of them will stand trial in Egypt’s military court. The Associated Press notes this court is “known for its swift trials and no right of appeal.” Figures targeted include most of the top leaders of the Al Taqwa Bank in Switzerland, the Muslim Brotherhood bank banned by the US for its alleged ties to al-Qaeda. About five of those to be tried in absentia are tied to the bank, including bank directors Youssef Nada and Ghaleb Himmat. [Agence France-Presse, 1/24/2007; Associated Press, 2/6/2007; Ikhwanweb, 2/8/2007] The Muslim Brotherhood has been officially banned in Egypt for decades but it has generally been tolerated by the government. Muslim Brotherhood members became the largest opposition bloc in the Egyptian parliament after winning 88 of the 454 seats in the 2005 legislative elections by running as independents. [Associated Press, 2/6/2007]
Ahmed Idris Nasreddin is quietly removed from the US and UN terrorist financier lists. Neither the US nor the UN publicly announces the decision or explains why his name is no longer on an updated list of financiers. Nasreddin, a 78-year old businessman based in Italy and Switzerland, was formally listed in 2002 due to his ties with the banned Al Taqwa Bank (see November 7, 2001). That bank was considered one of the top funders for al-Qaeda and other militant groups until it was banned in late 2001. When asked by the Los Angeles Times about the delisting, the Treasury Department says the original listing was appropriate but Nasreddin was delisted because he submitted signed statements certifying he had terminated all business relationships with Al Taqwa and related entities and individuals. Former State Department official Victor Comras complains: “They seem to be saying that he was a bad guy but that he has renounced being a bad guy. If that’s the criteria, wow, a lot of people will try to get off the list. All they have to do is say, We’re not doing it anymore.” [Los Angeles Times, 11/28/2007]
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