Charity’s bank accounts closed over Hamas tiesFebruary 19, 2013
The Al-Aqsa Foundation’s account with the First National Bank of South Africa has been suspended. The alleged Palestinian relief charity is already blacklisted by the U.S.
An intriguing part of this article is a brief reference to Al-Aqsa opening an account with a second bank, Al-Baraka, after Al-Aqsa was notified that First National Bank would be closing Al-Aqsa’s account. Al-Aqsa must have believed that Al-Baraka, a branch of the Bahrain-based sharia finance conglomerate known as the Al-Baraka Banking Group, would have been a safe haven for its tainted funds. However, once the attempt to evade international sanctions by simply opening a new account with a second South African bank was discovered, Al-Baraka has no choice but to suspend Al-Aqsa’s account as well.
In similar developments elsewhere, TCF Financial Corp. is closing the accounts of several Iranian students at the University of Minnesota, and UBS closed a bank account belonging to the UK-based Islamic Relief late last year.
From the Daily Maverick:
Banking woes for SA charity suspected of financing Hamas
The Al Aqsa Foundation has had its banking facilities with two South African banks suspended in recent weeks. Despite being registered with the South African government as a bona fide charity, the foundation is believed to be covertly funnelling funds to Hamas. By KHADIJA PATEL.
The Al-Aqsa Foundation, a charity registered with the Department of Social Development focusing on providing aid to Palestinians has recently had its banking facilities with two South African banks suspended. The Foundation is suspected by the US government to be raising funds for Hamas, the Palestinian resistance movement and governing authority of the Gaza strip.
In December, First National Bank (FNB) issued Al-Aqsa Foundation with three months’ notice before completely shutting its account. In a statement, the CEO of FNB Commercial Banking Michael Vacy-Lyle explained, “It has come to the bank’s attention that the foundation is expressly listed by the US Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and other international sanctions lists.”
The move received widespread condemnation from the South African Muslim community, with at least one prominent cleric calling for a boycott of FNB. The Media Review Network, an organisation focused on the representation of Islam and Muslims in the media, deplored FNB heeding to the dictate of “foreign” agents, despite the Foundation receiving a clean audit from the Department of Social Services.
FNB, however, has sought to dismiss allegations that it has been bullied by the US government into closing the account. The listing is said to have come to the attention of the bank over a year ago during routine internal governance processes, and closing the account is an act of expedience that allows FNB to keep up its relationships with other financial institutions in the US.
Vacy-Lyle said, “The international financial community imposes stringent obligations in respect of the maintenance of banking relationships with entities listed by OFAC and the decision by FNB to terminate its relationship with the foundation is a consequence of this fact alone.”
Annette Hübschle, a researcher focused on the organised crime-terror nexus, said the move to close the Foundation’s account in light of the US listing was revealing of who holds the greatest power in global politics.
Last week it was revealed that another South African bank, Al-Baraka bank, had also frozen an account of the Al-Aqsa Foundation – this account had been opened after FNB had indicated it would be terminating the Foundation’s account.
According to another statement from FNB quoted by Channel Islam International, “The closure is a requirement of global banking governance and is applicable to all South African Banks including Al-Baraka Bank.”
Hübschle agrees. “They have all signed up to the Basel regulations,” she said. “In essence, banks do have to comply, not necessarily with the US, but more if they want to do business in the US then they actually do have to comply.”
She names the example of The Palestinian Relief and Development Fund (Interpal) as a case in point. “In 2003, the US Treasury named Interpal a ‘specially designated global terrorist group’ that directly financed Hamas, while the British Charity Commission gave Interpal a clean bill of health. This perhaps reflects a disagreement about where charity ends and extremism begins,” she said.
The Al-Aqsa Foundation has been described by the United States as a “critical part of Hamas’ transnational terrorist support infrastructure”. According to the US government, Hamas “uses humanitarian relief as cover to provide support to the Hamas terrorist organisation”. Hamas, the governing authority of the Gaza strip, is further designated by the US Secretary of State as a “Foreign Terrorist Organisation”. According to the US, Hamas is known to raise millions of dollars per year throughout the world using charitable fundraising as a cover. Al-Aqsa Foundation is alleged to be one such mask for more nefarious Hamas activity…