Archive for March, 2013

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UN, U.K. unfreeze Al Qaeda financier’s assets

March 31, 2013

In addition to removing Abdelghani Mzoudi from its Al Qaeda blacklist, the UN has lifted sanctions against Mamoun Darkazanli, a longtime terrorist bankroller and logistical manager.  The UK’s treasury department has followed suit.

Mr. Watchlist provides some of the technical details surrounding the removal here.

But who is Darkazanli, and why is this de-listing a problem?  For that, let’s turn back the dial to this 2010 article from The Telegraph via Free Republic:

Germany’s Imam Mamoun Darkazanli: Al-Qaeda’s Alleged Financier and Logistician

The Telegraph | 8/27/2010 | Derek Henry Flood

Posted on Saturday, August 28, 2010 3:52:03 AM by bruinbirdman

Police in Hamburg shut down the notorious al-Quds mosque, renamed the Taiba mosque in 2008, led by German-Syrian national and voluntary imam Mamoun Darkazanli. Darkazanli (a.k.a. Abu Ilyas al-Suri) has been a suspected al-Qaeda operative, primarily as a financier and logistician, in the European Union for close to two decades. Long active in al-Qaeda circles, Darkazanli first surfaced on the radar of Western intelligence agencies when he purportedly helped procure a cargo ship named “Jennifer” for Osama bin Laden as early as 1993 (Hamburger Abendblatt, October 16, 2004). Germany’s Bundeskriminalamt (BKA- Federal Criminal Police Office) admitted that it had been tracking Darkazanli since 1996 when it first suspected his al-Qaeda linkages (Der Spiegel, October 29, 2001).

Mamoun Darkazanli

Darkazanli was born on August 4, 1958 in Syria and is a dual German-Syrian national according to a Red notice issued by Interpol. [1] His birth city is unclear. German media report him as being born in Damascus while the U.S. Department of the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control cites his birthplace as the northern city of Aleppo. He is generally believed to be or have been a member of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood (SMB), but that aspect of his life, like so many others, is also not clearly defined. Throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Brotherhood organized itself in vehement opposition to the Alawite regime of the late Ba’athist strongman Hafez al-Assad. The common narrative of Darkazanli’s life path paints a picture of a Muslim Brotherhood member on the run from Ba’athist repression following an assassination attempt on President al-Assad on June 25, 1980. A major crackdown on Syria’s Islamists ensued and Mamoun Darkazanli fled to Europe. Conflicting with this well-worn narrative are two media reports. In an interview with a pan-Arab daily shortly after 9/11, his sister, Samiyah, told a reporter that although Darkazanli was a devout Muslim, he was never a member of the SMB and that he never returned to Damascus after leaving for the West because of his record as a known Syrian military draft dodger and his fear of retribution should he return to the country (Al-Hayat, October 4, 2001). The second citation contradicting his alleged involvement in the SMB stems from an interview in the Spanish daily El Mundo with the SMB’s exiled London-based leader, Ali Sadreddine Bayanouni, who outright denied Darkazanli has ever held membership in his movement.

Darkazanli and Said Bahaji

Darkazanli’s mosque operated on the Steindamm in Hamburg’s workaday Sankt Georg (Saint George) neighborhood alongside sex shops and liquor stores and near the city’s central railway terminal on the second floor of building 103. The mosque and Darkazanli provided support to the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell led by Mohammed Atta and had sustained Hamburg’s radicalizing Islamists until its closure in the early hours of Monday, August 9 (Der Spiegel, August 9).

Mamoun Darkazanli notoriously appeared in a wedding video filmed inside the al-Quds mosque for Said Bahaji, a key member of the Hamburg cell still at large. In October of 1999 Darkazanli and Bahaji celebrated his marriage to an 18-year old German woman of Turkish origin named Nese Kul alongside hijackers Marwan al-Shehi of the UAE and Lebanon’s Ziad Jarrah as well as 9/11 facilitator Ramzi bin al-Shibh of Yemen (Hannoversche Allgemeine, August 9). Bahaji, born to a Moroccan father and German mother in Lower Saxony, lived less than two kilometers from the core of the Hamburg cell in the borough of Harburg on the southern shore of the Elbe River. A reportedly close associate of Mamoun Darkazanli, Bahaji is currently believed to be along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border after his passport was recovered last year by Pakistani troops from the wreckage of a mud brick compound in the village of Sherawangi following a Pakistani army assault on a Taliban-held area in South Waziristan (Dawn, October 30, 2009; Die Welt, October 31, 2009).

Darkazanli, a 52 year-old resident of the Hamburg’s Uhlenhorst district, has yet to be convicted of any offense in the EU and described his links with hijackers Atta and al-Shehi as “coincidences” (Sueddeutsche Zeitung, January 9). He is listed in the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1267 as of 2007 as either residing or having his business registered at Uhlenhorster Weg 34, just two kilometers north of the al-Quds mosque. Resolution 1267 was adopted in the fall of 1999 by the Security Council to sanction designated members and supporters of al-Qaeda and the Taliban with the UN’s dismay at the then unyielding civil war in northern Afghanistan.

On July 15, Darkazanli’s company, Darkazanli Export-Import Sonderposten, initially designated as an al-Qaeda entity on October 6, 2001, was delisted as such an entity by the Security Council, though he still appears on the consolidated sanctions list as an individual affiliated with al-Qaeda. [2] The UN does not provide a specific explanation as to why Darkazanli’s company was taken off the sanctions list. It may no longer be an active business thereby becoming irrelevant to the list after a recent review.

Kingdom of Spain v. Darkazanli

Darkazanli was wanted by the famed Spanish anti-terror judge Baltasar Garzón and spent time in German custody in 2004-2005 but was never extradited to Madrid. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Freedom from Arab oil boosted by record production in North Dakota

March 29, 2013

770,000 barrels per day closer to independence

Texas, federal waters, and North Dakota constitute the holy trinity of the U.S. energy production, and North Dakota contributes an increasingly larger portion of the total.

Bakken output puts us the U.S. closer toward energy self-sufficiency, which, over time, will mean less power for OPEC, fewer petrodollars going to state sponsors of terrorism, a decreased risk of supply interruptions, and less pressure for America to become involved in the squabbles of the Middle East.

This encouraging data comes to us from PennEnergy on Mar. 18 (hat tip to Steve Maley):

http://www.pennenergy.com/articles/pennenergy/2013/03/north-dakota-oil-production-reaches-new-high-in-2012.html?cmpid=EnlDailyPetroMarch192013

North Dakota oil production reaches new high in 2012

North Dakota crude oil production (including lease condensate) averaged an all-time high of 770,000 barrels per day in December 2012. Total annual production more than doubled between 2010 and 2012 through the use of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing of deposits in the Bakken Formation in the Williston Basin. North Dakota production in 2012 trailed only Texas and the U.S. Federal Offshore region, and the state accounted for 10% of total U.S. crude oil production.

Much of crude oil production in North Dakota is gathered and transported by truck to railcars leaving the state. In the four counties where production is concentrated, about 75% of production is transported by truck, and this can cause supply chain problems at times. Severe weather can impede truck travel, which may lower oil production in the state. Once on-site storage tanks at production sites are full, production stops until the trucks can move again. For example, in November 2012 North Dakota crude oil production fell slightly from the October level to 735,000 bbl/d because of weather-induced transportation problems caused by an unusually heavy snowstorm. Pipeline networks, which can be more efficient and less subject to storm disruptions than trucking, are currently being expanded.

Weather slowing or halting truck transportation can also affect the completion of wells that are not yet producing. According to the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources (DMR), almost all (95%) wells drilled in North Dakota use hydraulic fracturing to produce the crude oil embedded in shale rock and tight (low permeability) formations. To start production, each well needs hundreds of truckloads of material (900-2,000, including 800 truckloads of water, according to the DMR) on-site that are delivered by tank trucks to storage tanks, unless a sufficient quantity of water is available at the wellsite. The total amount of water needed for hydraulic fracturing must be at the wellsite before hydraulic fracturing can begin.

Because over 80% of North Dakota’s wells are located in only four counties—Dunn, McKenzie, Montrail, and William—in the northwest area of the state, harsh weather in these areas can reduce the state’s total crude oil production, as happened in November 2012 and again in January 2013.

It’s also worth noting that pipeline expansion would help even further—a point lost on extreme environmentalists and Democrats.

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Revisiting Ghaith Pharaon’s ties to Bin Laden

March 28, 2013

A French parliamentary report released shortly after 9/11 revealed that Ghaith Pharoan and other Saudi elites were “directly linked to [Osama] Bin Laden through banks, holding companies, foundations and charities…”

This is the same Ghaith Pharoan who was involved with the $1.7 billion savings and loan scandals of Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) and CenTrust in the 1980s.  Although not officially charged with financing terrorism, Pharoan remains under U.S. indictment for “having been a front man in B.C.C.I.’s secret and unlawful acquisitions of American banks, including the National Bank of Georgia and the Independence Bank of Encino, Calif.”

Like many prominent Saudis, Pharoan peddled influence in the U.S. prior to his indictment without regard to political party, allegedly forming relationships with Henry Kissinger, members of the Carter administration including Bert Lance, and George W. Bush before he became involved in politics—a sign of the great lengths to which the Saudis have gone to curry favor with American officials.

The Guardian examined the French report (h/t History Commons) in this difficult-to-Google article below.  Thanks to Rushette for suggesting more coverage related to this subject.

City ‘haven’ for terrorist money laundering

Report says Bin Laden has extensive interests in UK

Osama bin Laden’s extensive financial interests in Britain are outlined today in a French parliamentary report that says the City is a money laundering haven for billions of pounds of tainted and terrorist money.

Up to 40 companies, banks and individuals based in Britain can legitimately be suspected of maintaining direct or indirect relations with the terrorist, according to a 70-page annexe, The Economic Environment of Osama bin Laden, attached to the French report. Compiled by an independent team of financial experts whose identity the French parliamentarians have undertaken not to reveal, the annexe reveals that the structure of Bin Laden’s financial network bears a striking similarity to that used by the collapsed BCCI bank for its fraudulent operations in the 1980s.

“This document clearly shows the great permeability of the British banking and financial system and the fragility of the controls operated at its points of entry,” write the authors of the French report, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian.

The annexe establishes numerous links between Bin Laden with international arms and oil dealers and even members of the Saudi elite.

It also pinpoints the relationship and its subsquent breakdown between Osama bin Laden and his family’s holding company, Saudi BinLadin Group, and its multiple subsidiaries, investments and offshoots in Europe.

Many of the individuals concerned, several with British connections, were also involved in various senior roles with BCCI, the report says. Hundreds of banks and companies are mentioned, from Sudan, Geneva and London to Oxford, the Bahamas and Riyadh.

The names of half a dozen former BCCI clients and officials, including Ghaith Pharaon, wanted by the US authorities for fraud, and Khalid bin Mahfouz, a Saudi banker who was closely involved with the bank before it was closed down by the Bank of England in 1991, recur throughout the annexe and are directly linked to Bin Laden through banks, holding companies, foundations and charities, at least one of which, the International Development Foundation, has its headquarters in London.

“The convergence of financial and terrorist interests, apparent particularly in Great Britain and in Sudan, does not appear to have been an obstacle with regard to the objectives pursued [by Bin Laden],” the annexe concludes. “The conjunction of a terrorist network attached to a vast financing structure is the dominant trait of operations conducted by bin Laden”…

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UN lifts sanctions on Muhammad Atta associate

March 27, 2013
http://www.dw.de/image/0,,1623175_4,00.jpg

Abdelghani Mzoudi now free to roam about the cabin

Abdelghani Mzoudi, a pal of 9/11 hijacking leader Muhammad Atta, is free to access his accounts, travel internationally, and buy or sells arms if he so chooses.  The United Nations removed Mzoudi from their blacklist of Al Qaeda operatives on March 18.

A tip of the hat goes to Mr. Watchlist, one of the only websites to have reported the Mzoudi de-listing.

According to the 9/11 Commission report, Mzoudi was an associate of the Al Qaeda cell in Hamburg, Germany, and personally witnessed Muhammad Atta sign his last will and testament in 1996.  Mzoudi was previously acquitted of terrorism charges, “not because the court was convinced of his innocence,” but because of missing evidence.

The United Nations has been on a sanctions list removal spree lately, freeing Al Qaeda sympathizers and financiers such as Yasin al-Qadi and Soliman al-Buthe from blacklists with almost no explanation, transparency, or opportunity for public comment.

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Health care fraudsters sent $1.1 million to Iran

March 26, 2013
http://www.yourvalleyvoice.com/news/article_0cc20972-ab7c-11e1-8872-001a4bcf887a.html?mode=image&photo=0

Hossein Lahiji, Co-defendant

Hossein and Najmeh Lahiji, a naturalized U.S. citizen and his wife, have been indicted for medical billing fraud in Texas, and for sending the illicit proceeds to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions.  Dr. Lahiji even accepted payments for medical treatment he claimed to perform in Texas while he was actually in Tehran.

The Lahijis funneled the dirty money through Espadana Exchange, an “unlicensed money remitting business”—ie, hawala business.  Iran sanctions expert and D.C. attorney Erich Ferrari has previously advised Iranian-Americans to “Just Say No” to engaging in hawala, also called havaleh, transactions destined for Iran.  Evidently, the Lahijis didn’t take his advice.

The couple’s trial was scheduled to begin yesterday.  The U.S. attorney’s office has these details:

McAllen Urologist and Wife Charged in Heath Care Fraud Scheme and Conspiracy to Violate Iranian Sanctions

HOUSTON – A federal grand jury has returned a four-count, superseding indictment against urologist Hossein Lahiji M.D. and his wife, attorney Najmeh Vahid Lahiji, both of McAllen and San Antonio, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. The second superseding Indictment, returned late yesterday, charges the couple with conspiracy to commit health care fraud, health care fraud and for conspiring to violate Iranian sanctions.

The Lahijis are set to appear in Houston tomorrow morning at 9:45 before U.S. District Judge Mary Milloy.

This indictment alleges the Lahijis conspired to violate Iranian Sanctions by transferring approximately $1.1 million to Iran. The Lahijis allegedly utilized an unlicensed money remitting business called the Espadana Exchange to avoid the United States banking regulations and to allegedly make it appear they were not violating the United States embargo with Iran. The indictment alleges the defendants sent some of the monies representing profits of their alleged illegal health care fraud scheme to Iran for the purpose of making an investment on behalf of Hossein Lahiji and Najmeh Vahid Lahiji in real estate rental property in Iran, all in violation of the Iranian sanctions.

“The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will tenaciously pursue individuals who violate international emergency economic powers statutes,” said IRS-Criminal Investigation (CI) Special Agent in Charge Lucy Cruz. “IRS-CI’s unique skill set is to unravel the often concealed complex networks used to disguise international financial crimes.”

The health care fraud scheme alleged in this indictment accuses Hossein and Najmeh Lahiji of conspiring to defraud multiple health care benefit programs by submitting false and fraudulent claims in connection with the use of unlicensed and unqualified medical personal and for billing for medical services not rendered. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Jihadists pass zakat through Nigerian banks and charities for Boko Haram

March 25, 2013

The Nigerian newspaper Punch reports that financial regulators say Islamic charities are being used to fund Boko Haram.

Terrorist sympathizers are also structuring their bank transactions—a classic money laundering technique—in small enough increments to avoid triggering the filing of suspicious transaction reports by the banks they use.

This is the classic money jihad.  Fundamentalist Muslim leaders are obtaining zakat donations from extremist parishioners who believe, as the Koran and Hadith instruct them, that they should wage jihad with their lives and their wealth, and that the mujahideen are an eligible category of zakat recipients.

Read it all:

NFIU probes banks, charities over Boko Haram funds

March 23, 2013

Anti-terrorism experts in the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit have placed some banks and charities in the country under watch for allegedly aiding the transfer of funds by Boko Haram.

This is just as there are indications that the extremist group has been involved in recruiting suicide bombers from refugee camps run by the Polisario Front in Algeria.

NFIU sources told Saturday PUNCH that sympathisers of the group had been exploiting monetary practices embedded in Islamic culture, such as Zakat, donation to charities and alms-giving to channel funds to it.

It was learnt that the ease with which terror sponsors had been moving money for terror operations through the banks had also made the job more difficult.

“Being persuasive preachers, the terror commanders often persuade some Muslim Ummah to give Zakat to their jihadist cause. This brings in a lot of money used in terror operations. Security agencies are finding difficult to track this because it leaves no paper trail or bank details,” a source stated.

Saturday PUNCH also learnt that some financial institutions were also being unwittingly used to transfer funds meant for terrorist activities by sponsors and sympathisers of these groups, who move such money in bits to avoid detection.

These banks are said to have ignored the provisions of the law to help customers to transfer money in and out of the country without filing the compulsory suspicious transaction reports where necessary.

Under the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011, the Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2011, Central Bank of Nigeria Anti-Money Laundering/ Combating the Financing of Terrorism Regulation, 2009 (as amended) and other AML/CFT Guidelines, banks and other financial institutions must render suspicious transaction reports to the NFIU, properly identify persons conducting transactions and maintain a paper trail by keeping appropriate records of their financial transactions.

The records will enable law enforcement and regulatory agencies to pursue investigations of criminal, tax and regulatory violations and provide useful evidence in prosecuting money laundering and other financial crimes. The legal provisions were designed to help identify the source, volume and movement of currency and other monetary instruments transported or transmitted into or out of Nigeria, or deposited in financial institutions in the country.

The laws impose criminal liability on a person or financial institution that knowingly assists in the laundering of money or fails to report suspicious transactions conducted through it.

Saturday PUNCH learnt that many financial institutions had neglected to file reports of suspicious transactions with the NFIU, in order not to lose the accounts of high profile clients who move huge funds.

Some of these funds are believed to be proceeds of crime or money laundering, one of the sources said.

“Sometimes, the banks assist their clients to transfer huge amounts in small lodgements to avoid filing a suspicious transaction report as mandated by law; we know all these tricks and we are working to deal with them,” the security official said.

Findings indicated that the terror cells also rely on foreign donations from jihadist organisations in Iran, Lebanon, Libya, Yemen and Saudi Arabia camouflaging as charity groups.

NFIU had also expressed concern over the reluctance of banks to file STR, noting that the insurance industry was more compliant with regard to money laundering and financing of terrorism…

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Hamas funded by slave and organ trade

March 24, 2013

Sudanese and East African flesh peddlers aligned with Hamas terrorists are ransoming captives and engaging in the trade of human organs to buy weapons for jihad.  This information does not come from right-wing Cassandras, but from CNN’s own correspondent in Berlin, Frederik Pleitgen.

The wages of this shameful trade are $35 million annually, says Pleitgen, in a completely overlooked but significant piece entitled “Human trafficking in the Sinai: to fight it we need to know it,” last month on the human rights webpage EveryOne.  Here are some of his most salient points:

  • Eritrean and Sudanese human traffickers continue kidnapping Eritrean refugees for ransom.
  • Every refugee kidnapped by the traffickers means roughly 20,000 dollars for armed fundamentalism. The turnover of trafficking is around $35 million per year. The Sudanese President, Omer Hassan al-Bashir, has acknowledged the role of the Rashaida tribe in the slave and organs trade…”
  • “Some of the major traffickers, including Abu Ahmed and Abu Khaled, have declared in interviews reported in the media, to be part of Hamas. In Sudan, through this massive fundraising activity focused on the abduction and sale of human beings, they are preparing the future stages of the war against the “infidels,” Western culture and the State of Israel.”
  • “[T]he Kalashnikovs in possession of Hamas militants are bought with profits from the slave and human organs trade.”

Read Pleitgen’s full piece here, and earlier Money Jihad coverage on this subject here.  Thanks to Twitter user @meankitteh1 for suggesting fresh coverage of the role of human trafficking in financing terrorism.

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