Posts Tagged ‘Saudi Arabia’

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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 and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria

August 11, 2014

In 2007, the Islamic State of Iraq was seen as “the richest of the insurgency groups” in Iraq with $1 billion to 1.5 billion “collected in revenue by the group through foreign donations, enforced taxation and confiscation of the property and funds of Iraqis.” But the U.S. surge and ISI missteps significantly damaged the jihadist group’s ability to raise funds.

Seven years and three names later, ISIS amassed a $2 billion comeback and took control of large swathes of territory in northern Iraq including Mosul and 35 percent of Syria.

ISIS’s financial recovery has been marked by a slight shift away from reliance on local extortion networks (although those are still in effect), improved organizational and financial management by ISIS leader and self-proclaimed caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and the departure of U.S. troops in 2011.

The most important elements of ISIS’s funding are sadaqa (voluntary donations) from Arab donors in the Gulf; sales and tolls collected on sales of oil from fields under its control; and increasingly through money made by controlling key infrastructure.

Here’s a rundown of ISIS’s main funding channels:

Sadaqa from private donors

Fundraising is aided by contemporary marketing methods

Oil

  • ISIS controls 60 percent of Syrian oil including the lucrative Omar field
  • In Iraq, ISIS controls Butmah and Ain Zalah oil fields, the refinery in Baiji, and oil and gas resources in Ajeel in northern Iraq
  • ISIS sells or collects a portion on black market sales to Turkey, Iran, and in Syria itself
  • Revenue estimates for ISIS range from $1 million to $3 million daily

Dams

  • In addition to oil, control of key infrastructure such as the dams in Mosul, Fallujah, and Tabqa present increasingly significant revenue potential for ISIS.
  • Professor Ariel Ahram notes this is already occurring at Tabqa, where ISIS is involved in selling electricity.
  • New York Times reporter Tim Arango says that possession of the Mosul dam can enable ISIS to “use it as a method of finance” through extortion schemes to continue their operations.

Other sources

  • Isis has seized arms from Iraqi depots, including U.S. weapons given to Iraqi forces, plus weapons smuggled from Turkey and Croatia
  • The collection of ransom money has sustained ISIS throughout its existence
  • Antiquities smuggling

Incidently, little is being done by the Gulf states to curtail the flow of donations to ISIS because they either want an independent Sunni state carved out of Iraq or to replace Iraq’s Shia-led government with Sunnis. Washington should designate Saudi Arabia and Qatar as state sponsors of terrorism, but it won’t because of diplomatic considerations.

Without interdicting the donations and the contraband oil, U.S. airstrikes will have limited effect on ISIS’s coffers.

This piece is also published at Terror Finance Blog.

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Ex-MI6 chief cites ISIS’s Saudi, Qatari donors

August 5, 2014

Iranian cartoon about Saudi funding of jihad

Richard Dearlove, the former head of the British spy agency MI6, made these comments last month about support for the Islamic State of Iraq by Saudi and Qatari donors:

They [Sunnis in the Middle East] are deeply attracted towards any militancy that can effectively challenge Shia-dom. How much Saudi and Qatari money – now I’m not suggesting direct government funding, but I am suggesting maybe a blind eye being turned – is being channeled towards ISIS, and reaching it? For ISIS to be able to surge into the Sunni areas of Iraq in the way that it’s done recently has to be the consequence of substantial and sustained funding. Such things simply do not happen spontaneously.

Indeed. As Money Jihad has previously observed, ISIS didn’t wake up one day and luck their way into seizing Mosul.  Video clips of Mr. Dearlove’s remarks are available on the Media Research Center’s website here.

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Terror finance trio: Qatar, Kuwait, and KSA

July 22, 2014

They left out Turkey. It is great that more people are coming to this realization and that books are being written about it, but it doesn’t seem to be significantly changing the policies of the West (apart from a growing rift between the U.S. and the Sunni powers in the region over how we’re dealing with Iran). We have yet to designate the major institutional terror donors in Qatar Saudi Arabia as terrorist entities. Kuwait was never blacklisted by FATF even though it took it 10 years after 9/11 to outlaw terrorist financing. NATO has retained Turkey as a member even though it is partnering with Al Qaeda in Syria and helps Iran evade sanctions. And we mostly ignored attacks by Qatari-backed rebels in Mali fighting against our oldest ally, France. Instead of doing something significant, we just nod our heads and say, “yep, the Gulf is where the money for terrorism comes from,” and then we turn the page of the newspaper to something else.

From VOA on July 7 (h/t El Grillo):

Islamist Insurgency Fueled by Global Finance Web

Jeffrey Young

The little cans were at cash registers everywhere in Kuwait, where I lived during much of the 1990s. Covered with pictures of children in anguish amid burning rubble, these cans collected coins and cash for “Palestinian Relief” or the like. Sometimes, I put my change into these cans, causing the person behind the counter to often give me a puzzled look. Then, I learned from my Kuwaiti friends that these collection cans were not always helping those kids – many were funding Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, and other violent groups.

Now, 20 years later, there is an international web of finance that leads to deadly insurgents such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Part of it runs through so-called “charities,” while another funding stream for terrorists is enabled by official complicity. And, these sources also intersect.

Colin Clarke, author of an upcoming book titled “Terrorism Inc: The Funding of Terrorism, Insurgency, and Irregular Warfare” says much of the cash now pouring into ISIL and other violent groups comes from three regional sources.

“A key component of support to Sunni extremist groups [including ISIL] comes from wealthy individuals in the Arab Gulf states of Kuwait, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia,” Clarke told VOA, adding “The majority of donors likely know exactly where their money is going. Some are blatant about it, while others enjoy the plausible deniability of ambiguity.”

Clarke also contends these three states are using this funding stream as a means of achieving influence with insurgent groups. “The Saudis,” he said, “are reportedly fearful of the threat posed by ISIL, but certainly contribute to radical groups, battling for a leadership role with Qatar, another country active in this funding.”

Kuwait has also allegedly kept the flames of insurgency fueled with cash. Until recently, one of those streams reportedly ran through Kuwait’s Aqaf, its Ministry of Islamic Affairs. In May, Aqaf Minister Nayef al-Ajmi resigned in the wake of accusations by a senior U.S. official that he was enabling terrorists…

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Gulf charcoal purchases prop up al-Shabaab

July 7, 2014

Money Jihad has long reported on how al-Shabaab profits from Somalia’s charcoal smuggling business, particularly by charging a checkpoint tax authorized by Islamic law. A new report from the United Nations Environmental Programme and Interpol confirms that this activity is ongoing despite a UN ban against Somali charcoal exports, saying that “Al Shabaab retains about one third of the [charcoal] income, which alone constitutes about USD 38–56 million” annually.

A map in the report shows a key al-Shabaab tax checkpoint at Buulo Xaaji, main points of embarkation from Kismayo and Barawe, major delivery locations at Jizan (Saudi Arabia), Dubai and Sharjah (UAE), and Khasab (Oman), with additional deliveries in Egypt, Yemen, and Kuwait.

Somali charcoal exports

In addition to “normal” smuggling of charcoal from Somalia to the Gulf states, it is Money Jihad’s belief that rampant trade-based money laundering is occurring between al-Shabaab and these states in which wealthy Arabs are transferring funds to al-Shabaab through over-invoicing for charcoal purchased. In other words, terror financiers in the UAE and Saudi Arabia are intentionally overpaying for Somali charcoal as a means of funding al-Shabaab without simple detection. The Gulf states are doing this to pursue larger strategic interests in Africa.

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Dialing for terror dollars: recommended reading

July 3, 2014
  • The disembowling of Iraq by Al Qaeda (ISIS) is being funded by Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia… more>>
  • ISIS’s annual report is more than a balance sheet or summary of operations.  It’s actually an appeal to potential investorsmore>>
  • The Taliban taxes poppies and blackmails businessmen.  But the dirty little secret behind most of the Taliban’s wealth lies with Arab sheikhs, say Afghan reporters… ground truth>>
  • An Arab interest group in New York opposed to NYPD tactics turns out to be funded by Qatar, the de facto sponsor of the global Muslim Brotherhood… more>>
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ISIS’s original piggy bank was Saudi Arabia

June 26, 2014

Could the Islamic State of Iraq (ISIS) terrorists truly have funded their ascendancy solely through extortion against local businessmen in northern Iraq? True, that has helped ISIS, and Money Jihad has covered these extortion operations several times (here, here, etc.). But we have also seen repeatedly that successful and multifaceted terrorist groups tend to rely on state sponsorship, whether it’s the Taliban’s seed money from Pakistan, Hezbollah’s support from Iran, or IHH’s money from Turkey.

As Money Jihad has always said, Saudi Arabia didn’t just fund 9/11—it funded the Iraq insurgency. The same elements Saudi Arabia funded during Operation Iraqi Freedom continue to be funded by Saudi Arabia today. Iraq says that this is the case. German security expert Günter Meyer says it is the case as well. The only person denying it is some flunky quoted in this article who lives in a bubble and works in John Kerry’s State Department. It is difficult to characterize Jen Psaki’s quote as anything other than a lie.

This analysis from Deutsche Welle (h/t El Grillo) is important to read for anybody wanting to understand what’s really fueling ISIS’s rise—and it didn’t just start with seizing a bank in Mosul:

Who finances ISIS?

During its conquest of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, ISIS fighters looted more than 500 billion Iraqi Dinar, worth about $420 million (308 million euros) at current exchange rates. ISIS is a rebel army composed of Sunni jihadis that calls itself the “Islamic State of Iraq and greater Syria.” Its aim is to establish a theocratic Sunni caliphate in the region.

Iraqi officials estimate that the group now has about $2 billion in its war chest. What remains controversial is where the bulk of its money comes from.

Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government accuses Saudi Arabia of supporting the ISIS jihadis. On Tuesday (17.06.2014), Iraqi Premier Nouri al-Maliki said “we hold Saudi Arabia responsible” for the financial and moral support given to ISIS.

The USA, which is Saudi Arabia’s most important ally, has rejected the Iraqi Premier’s accusation. Jen Psaki, a speaker for the US State Department, said on Tuesday evening that al-Maliki’s accusation was “inaccurate and humiliating.”

Money from the Gulf States?

“There is no publicly accessible proof that the government of a state has been involved in the creation or financing of ISIS as an organisation,” said Charles Lister, Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar, a subsidiary of the US think-tank Brookings Institution.

Others take a different view. Günter Meyer is Director of the Center for Research into the Arabic World at the University of Mainz. Meyer says he has no doubt about where ISIS gets its funding. “The most important source of ISIS financing to date has been support coming out of the Gulf states, primarily Saudi Arabia but also Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates,” Meyer told Deutsche Welle. The Gulf states’ motivation in financing groups like ISIS was to support their fight against the regime of President Bashar al Assad in Syria, according to Meyer. Three quarters of the Syrian population are Sunni Muslims, but Syria is ruled by an elite drawn mostly from the Alawite minority. The Alawites are an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

Recently, however, the government of Saudi Arabia has recognized the dangers of this policy. “Saudi citizens now compose the largest contingent of foreign fighters in ISIS. When those fighters come home, there’s a danger that they might turn against the Saudi regime,” Meyer said. But there are reasons to believe that financing for ISIS continues to flow out of Saudi Arabia, “less from the Saudi government than from rich Saudis”.

Money from oil and extortion

Additional key financing sources for ISIS, according to Meyer, are the oil fields of northern Syria. “ISIS was able to get those oil fields under their control. They use trucks to bring oil over the border into Turkey. That’s an important source of funding for them.”

The view of Charles Lister at the Brookings Doha Center is that ISIS is largely able to fund itself. “ISIS has made an effort to establish networks in society that generate a continuing flow of money.” As an example, Lister points to the systematic extortion conducted by ISIS in the recently conquered city of Mosul.

“The exortion affects small businesses and big companies, construction firms, and if the rumors are true, even local government representatives,” Lister told DW. “In addition, it’s suspected that the organization levies taxes in the areas that it completely controls – for example Raqqa in northeastern Syria.”…

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