Revisiting the Golden Chain, 11 years laterSeptember 11, 2012
It was the 1990s. Osama bin Laden was broke, busted, and disgusted. Al Qaeda had spent its last dime, and Osama needed a bailout. Sulaiman Al-Rajhi and 19 other millionaire and billionaire Muslims came to the rescue. They constituted a “golden chain” of financial backers that would enable a second life for Al Qaeda in Afghanistan from which to stage the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
The U.S. Senate presented the evidence against the Golden Chain once again this summer in its report about the misdeeds of the British bank HSBC. HSBC maintained a relationship with Al-Rajhi Bank, of which Sulaiman Al-Rajhi was a founder, until 2005 despite the earlier discovery of the Golden Chain and Al-Rajhi Bank’s record of facilitating terrorist transactions.
Don’t take my word for it. This comes from the Senate’s Jul. 17, 2012, report:
Al Qaeda List of Financial Benefactors. The al Qaeda list of financial benefactors came to light in March 2002, after a search of the Bosnian offices of the Benevolence International Foundation, a Saudi based nonprofit organization which was also designated a terrorist organization by the Treasury Department, led to seizure of a CD-ROM and computer hard drive with numerous al Qaeda documents. One computer file contained scanned images of several hundred documents chronicling the formation of al Qaeda. One of the scanned documents contained a handwritten list of 20 individuals identified as key financial contributors to al Qaeda. Osama bin Laden apparently referred to that group of individuals as the “Golden Chain.” In a report prepared for Congress, the Congressional Research Service explained:
According to the Commission’s report, Saudi individuals and other financiers associated with the Golden Chain enabled bin Laden and Al Qaeda to replace lost financial assets and establish a base in Afghanistan following their abrupt departure from Sudan in 1996.
One of the 20 handwritten names in the Golden Chain document identifying al Qaeda’s early key financial benefactors is Sulaiman bin Abdul Aziz Al Rajhi, one of Al Rajhi Bank’s key founders and most senior officials.
The Golden Chain document has been discussed in the 9-11 Commission’s report, in federal court filings, and civil lawsuits. Media reports as early as 2004 noted that the al Qaeda list included the Al Rajhi name. HSBC was clearly on notice about both the al Qaeda list and its inclusion of Sulaiman bin Abdul Aziz Al Rajhi.
What became of the Golden Chain? As for Al-Rajhi, the most prominent individual listed, he remains at large with an estimated net worth of $6 billion, showing up on Forbes magazine cover stories and feature interviews in the Arab News. By Al-Rajhi’s own admission, he’s working out a “meticulous scheme” for a mysterious charitable endowment to dispose of his assets.