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Why it was right to refuse James Foley’s ransom

August 22, 2014

ISIS demanded a $132 million ransom a week prior to their beheading of American journalist James Foley. The New York Times reports that the U.S. declined to pay.

Several commentators including David Rohde of Reuters and James Traub of Foreign Policy have taken the opportunity to question the so-called “U.S. and U.K.” policy against paying ransoms.

Actually, refusing to pay ransoms to terrorists isn’t just an idiosyncrasy of American and British policy; it is international law. UN Resolution 1904 forbids the payment of ransoms. Furthermore, an agreement by the G8 in 2013 pledged to refrain from paying ransoms.

The critics of the “U.S.” no-ransom policy omit this information either out of laziness or bias.  True, some European governments pay ransoms under the table, which is very damaging to international security, but that is in violation of international accords and their own publicly stated policies.

Transferring funds of any kind from the U.S. to ISIS would also constitute material support for a foreign terrorist organization under U.S. Code 2339B.

Not only is America prohibited from paying ransoms under international law, agreements, and domestic law, but it would also be foolish to pay ransoms to terrorist groups. Funding an enemy group that the U.S. Air Force is simultaneously carrying out missions against would be, to put it mildly, illogical. Paying ransoms to ISIS would also aid the enemy of Iraq–a nation that U.S. troops fought alongside with to protect from insurgent terrorism.

Moreover, paying ransoms only serves to increase the likelihood that Americans and other Westerners living or traveling in the Middle East will be kidnapped. Payments also drive up the price of the ransoms demanded.

Critics would have you believe that it’s time for “a debate” about paying ransoms. The debate came and went when Resolution 1904 passed the UN. The would-be ransom payers lost the debate back then.

In summary, abductions are tragic but they will be more commonplace if we started complying with ransom demands.

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Financial war on terror: recommended reading

August 21, 2014
  • Time for a good old-fashioned asset freeze, arms embargo, and international travel ban against 6 ISIS terrorists… more>>
  • The beltway chatter is that the U.S. can’t do much to stop the financing of ISIS because it makes millions locally, which is harder to interdict that international funds transfers. Newsmax disagrees… more>>
  • ISIS may be behind high-profile cyber-hacks against Tony Blair, P-Diddy, and banks in order to finance their terror in Iraq… more>>
  • A British mosque will host a fundraiser with a speaker from the radical Hizb ut-Tahrirmore>>
  • U.S. taxpayer dollars fund UNRWA, a UN agency in the Palestinian territories staffed by a Hamas-run labor union whose members’ salaries are siphoned by Hamas as union dues… more>>
  • The German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung reports that the main civilian airport is Iran has been transformed into a “hub of terror” for arms shipments by the IRGC to Hezbollah… more>>
  • The feds will force 21,550 banks to mine more data on 8 million accounts a year. The American Bankers Association asks, “Once you have that information, what do you do with it?” more>>
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Claim: al-Shabaab financiers tend to come from one clan

August 19, 2014

Money Jihad cannot confirm the accuracy of a recent claim that financiers of the al-Shabaab terrorist organization tend to come from the Hawiye—the dominant clan in Mogadishu.

A Somali news site says it investigated al-Shabaab’s funding for six months and identified 10 entrepreneurs from various Hawiye sub-clans working in Somalia, Kenya, and Dubai who allegedly fund al-Shabaab. Money from the businessmen is said to be routed through Sheikh Yusuf Sheikh Issa, a.k.a. “Kabkutukade,” but separate media accounts appear to contradict that statement by reporting that Kabkutukade was jailed a year ago.

There is some corroboration that one of the men named in the article, referred to as “Muse Mohammed Ganjab,” does indeed have militant connections. The Times recently reported that “Musa Haji Mohamed Ganjab,” an adviser to Somali president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, sent an arms shipment to al-Shabaab weeks after the terror siege of the Westgate mall in Nairobi, Kenya, and that he personally delayed an attack against an al-Shabaab base in Barawe.

There is also some indication of Hawiye roots and connections to al-Shabaab: the Jamestown Foundation says that the Islamic Union of Courts and its al-Shabaab offshoot were initially criticized as a Hawiye clan militia, the website Terror Free Somalia has previously noted that al-Shabaab’s sanctioned leaders are “mostly Hawiye,” and the Somalia Report says that al-Shabaab used to be referred to as a Hawiye clan based group. But it is also possible that some claims originate from rival clans, and al-Shabaab has members and supporters from non-Hawiye clans as well.

Nevertheless, the tribal connections are mostly immaterial, since al-Shabaab is, at its core, a jihadist group aligned primarily around its belief in fundamentalist Islam, and not along clan lineage.

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Al-Shabaab profits from Somali telecom sector

August 18, 2014

Without a stable central government, Somalia’s telecommunications network has been unregulated for decades.  This has allowed for tremendous growth and fairly low prices for phone and Internet access in Somalia compared to neighboring countries.

However, this has also created a Wild West atmosphere of clan elders and businessmen in Mogadishu cutting deals with international—often Saudi-backed—telecommunications providers like Arabsat.  Arabsat is based in Saudi Arabia and is owned by the Arab League.  In addition to providing phone coverage, Arabsat’s satellites host television broadcasts by well-known hate channels Al Manar and Al-Aqsa.

The government of Somalia has made attempts recently to begin taxing and regulating the telecommunications industry, but the bigger factors at play are the taxes you don’t see.  Some evidence suggests that informal licenses are granted by warlords or businessmen in exchange for bribes paid behind the scenes.

Reporting from the Gulf News earlier this year went even farther, suggesting that the warlords allow the telecoms to over-charge customers so they can pocket the difference or pay off al-Shabaab too:

…By persuading other telcos worldwide to clip the ticket for them, these [Somali telecommunications providers] groups has [sic] become wealthy enough to avoid attempts by government and the regulatory International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to rein them in.

Not only do these groups exploit vulnerable customers charging them often beyond their means and disproportionate to costs, there are also suspicions that some sponsor the terrorist scourge, Al Shabaab.

By negotiating with foreign companies to charge above the usual rates and to put money collected into overseas funds, these “companies” avoid tax — and have sufficient clout to offer deals to favoured factions, or fund groups they believe will deliver a government suited to their economic or ideological aims…

There are also rumors of relationships between, or at least pressure exerted by, al-Shabaab on several specific Somali telecommunications companies including Hormuud Telecom.  RBC Radio reported this year that, “Al Shabab has closed down Hormuud Telecom Company’s branch in Jilib town, Middle Jubba region after the company failed to pay $50,000 which Al Shabab demanded from local companies,” and added that, “Extorting money from private business companies and aid agencies operating in Somalia is seen as the biggest source of investment for Al Shabab’s war with the government.”  Some sources have gone further, describing Hormuud as “al-Shabaab’s messenger” or “the phone of death” taking its cues from al-Shabaab.

In October 2011, Hormuud was allowed to remain in operation while two rival companies were closed by al-Shabaab.  One of those rivals, Nationlink Telecom, eventually reopened after allegedly paying $30,000 to al-Shabaab to resume operations.  An al-Shabaab member told the Somalia Report that non-cooperative companies would be forced to close “until their managers agree to pay taxation for the war against the infidels as well as the crusaders.”

While it is possible that some of the claims about the telecommunications business in Somalia have been exaggerated due to clan or business rivalries, former al-Shabaab commander Mohamed Farah Al-Ansari confirmed the role of extortion against Somali telecommunications companies in funding al-Shabaab in an interview with Voice of America last year.

There are enough grounds for concern that international investors and corporations would do well to examine any business deals with Somali telecommunications companies with the utmost caution.  Similar to the risks of doing business with the money transfer company Dahabshiil, the taint of al-Shabaab is simply too strong to ignore.

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Islamic charity pleads guilty to tax fraud

August 17, 2014

Al Haramain, a Saudi-based international charity which once maintained its U.S. branch in Oregon, has pleaded guilty to tax fraud 14 years after filing a false return designed to conceal a $150,000 check issued to Chechen jihadists.

The Associated Press reported on July 29:

…On Tuesday, the charity pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Eugene to one count of filing a false tax return with the Internal Revenue Service. The group was placed on probation for three years, and it agreed during that time not to resume operating as a tax-exempt charity in the U.S., prosecutors said.

The charity failed to report to the Internal Revenue Service that a $150,000 donation in 2000 went overseas to Saudi Arabia and was meant to be sent to Chechnya, prosecutors said. The charity falsely reported on its tax return that the money was used partly to buy a building in the U.S.

The foundation was disbanded after the U.S. government declared it was a terrorist organization and froze its assets…

Far from being a lawless series of raids in the early- to mid-2000s against innocent Islamic charities that CAIR and the ACLU have depicted, the successful convictions against the Holy Land Foundation and guilty pleas such a this illustrate that the Bush-era crackdowns on front charities was legitimate.

As part of the plea deal, Al Haramain’s former U.S. director, Pete Seda, who was previously convicted for his involvement in the case, is getting charges dropped against him.

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Money Jihad blog benefits from celebrity tweets

August 16, 2014

We were quite surprised when comedian and actress Roseanne Barr recently tweeted out a link to a Money Jihad blog post from last year about Hamas’s involvement in organ trafficking to her quarter-million followers on Twitter:

Tweet by Roseanne Barr to Money Jihad post

But the 17 retweets and 10 favorites to Roseanne’s tweet didn’t drive quite as much traffic as the 55 retweets and 127 favorites for a droll tweet earlier this month by television actor David Boreanaz to his 600,000 Twitter fans:  “Number 4: http://moneyjihad.wordpress.com/2011/08/29/the-worlds-5-richest-terrorist-groups/,” corresponding to Hamas’s place among the world’s five richest terrorist groups as ranked by Money Jihad:

Angel from Buffy tweets link to Money Jihad post

But oftentimes the Hollywood tweeps can’t compete with subject matter experts with large followings on Twitter. Canadian commentator Tarek Fatah, author of The Jew is Not My Enemy and several other books, routinely attracts multiple retweets, as he did with this 2013 tweet about Money Jihad’s profile of one of Jamaat-e-Islami’s Saudi financiers:

One of Tarek Fatah's links to Money Jihad

That level of influence is tough to match on our own. But with over 4,500 followers on Twitter, @moneyjihad chirps out some popular tweets linking back to the blog, like this one in May about the Canadian Islamic charity IRFAN’s financing of Hamas:

Money Jihad Twitter referral

Twitter, in addition to being a very fun way of gathering news and engaging with people about terrorist financing, has been a very effective method of drawing attention to the blog.

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Muslim leaders decry bank account closures

August 15, 2014

Outraged by the decision of HSBC to close the accounts of clients who may be at risk of laundering money, evading sanctions, or financing terrorism, one of the trustees of the Ummah Welfare Trust (UWT) has called for a boycott by “Muslim brothers and sisters” and “their contacts” against the British bank.

The Federation of Student Islamic Societies also condemned the closure, saying it sets the precedent that such accounts can be “closed, without reason, at any time.” The Daily Mail notes that several Muslim Britons have taken to social media outlets to call HSBC’s decision “racist,” while the targets of the closures have blamed “Islamophobia.”

These knee-jerk and vitriolic responses are similar to the reaction of prominent individuals like Olympic medalist Mo Farah, who claimed that an attempt by Barclays to end a business relationship with one remittance company last year could mean “death to millions of Somalis,” and from U.S. Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN) who screamed, “It’s wrong to close off the lifeline!” during a protest against banks in Minnesota that ceased remittance services to Somalia in late 2011.

Can we not have a civil and intelligent conversation about why the accounts have been closed, and what regulatory pressures brought this to bear, without spoiling for a confrontation and casting HSBC’s leaders as a bunch of ignorant bigots?

The targets of the closures purport to be upset that they were not given an adequate explanation for the account closures. But that’s a catch-22. If HSBC had disclosed the reasons for its suspicions—if hypothetically it had said that UWT operates two programs in Gaza that are administered by Hamas operatives—then UWT would probably claim that the disclosure was baseless and defamatory, and that the matter should have been handled in private.

Or if HSBC had maintained the accounts, HSBC’s leadership would be hauled before Congress again and asked to explain why it still operated accounts on behalf of controversial entities like the Finsbury Park mosque and UWT.

This is a case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t, and damned for the manner in which you did or didn’t do it.

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