Archive for April, 2013

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The financial affairs of the Tsarnaev brothers

April 23, 2013

Here’s a rundown of information available so far about Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s financial situations:

Revenues

  • U.S. News reports that “The larger Tsarnaev family ended up living on public assistance in Cambridge, Mass,” which in context of the article was probably around 2010.
  • Dzhokhar Tsarnaev received a $2,500 scholarship from the city of Cambridge in May 2011 to pursue higher education.
  • Tamerlan Tsarnaev was unemployed, but his wife, Katherine Russell, was working long hours as a home health care aide.  During their last conversation, Tamerlan told his uncle that he fixes cars, but he did not say whether he was earning wages.
  • Patimat Suleimanova, the Tsarnaev brothers’ aunt, said that “the brothers had stumbled upon money problems” in 2012, and that their father Anzor Tsarnaev “would send money from here when he could.”
  • Dzhokhar Tsarnaev withdrew $800 from Bank of America an ATM card stolen from the Tsarnaev’s carjacking victim on the night of April 18.

Expenses

  • Tamerlan Tsarnaev studied accounting part-time from 2006 to 2008, incurring probable tuition expenses.  U.S. News says he dropped out for financial reasons.
  • Tamerlan and Katherine Tsarnaev’s daughter was born in 2010, incurring probable medical expenses.
  • Dzhokhar was a student at UMass Dartmouth, where annual tuition, room, board, and fees cost approximately $22,255 for Massachusetts residents.
  • Tamerlan Tsarnaev travelled to Russia from January to June 2012 (where airfare normally runs at least several hundred dollars).
  • During his Russia trip, a neighbor described Tamerlan Tsarnaev as a “dandy” and that he “he dressed in a very refined way.”
  • Bombs like the ones used at the Boston marathon may have cost about $100 apiece to make.
  • During an interview with CNN, Cambridge auto mechanic Gilberto Junior said that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was wearing $900 shoes while visiting his repair shop just days after the bombings.  Junior also described Dzhokhar’s friends, who describe themselves as being Turkish, as the owners of “high-end cars.”  Junior told the New York Times that the brothers themselves also had a taste for expensive cars.

Indirect information

  • The Tsarnaevs’ mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva quit her job working at a spa within the last few years.
  • Investigators have been reexamining the 2011 murder of a former roommate of Tamerlan Tsarnaev.  Thousands of dollars in cash were left at the crime scene.
  • Dhzokar Tsarnaev once described his personal priority in life as “career and money.”
  • In June 2012, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva was arrested for shoplifting $1,600 worth of clothes from Lord & Taylor.
  • During his good-bye call to his uncle Alvi Tsarnaev, Tamerlan asked “Did you pay your mortgage?”
  • Katherine Russell Tsarnaev’s parents are selling their home, and have listed it for $467K.
  • In his initial court appearance on Apr. 22, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was asked “Can you afford a lawyer?” He answered, “No.”
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Websites crucial to funding Caucasus jihad

April 22, 2013

Webpages operated by the Caucasus Emirate terrorist organization have played a key and growing role in financing their operations, according to a late-2011 report from the Center for Strategic & International Studies.  The report revealed that while the Caucasus Emirate relied on centralized sites such as Qoqaz.net in the early 2000s, the Caucasus Emirate and Al Qaeda now follow a more decentralized approach of communicating through discussion forums, social media, and smaller websites.

What role, if any, such websites played in engaging Boston Marathon bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokar Tsarnaev is yet to be determined, but the 2011 article below from Reuters via Radio Free Europe about the CSIS findings now merits a second look.

The article also acknowledges the symbiotic relationship and financial ties between Al Qaeda and the North Caucasus guerrillas that Money Jihad profiled last Friday:

Think Tank Says Al-Qaeda Funding Caucasus Rebels

September 30, 2011

A leading Washington think tank says Al-Qaeda is providing growing support, including financial, to Islamic rebels in Russia’s restive North Caucasus.

In its report, the Center for Strategic and International Studies said Al-Qaeda has played a key role in “proselytizing jihadism” to the mujahideen in Chechnya and the Caucasus.

The report’s author, Gordon Hahn, pointed to a growing number of websites linked to the insurgency that are carrying statements of support from leading jihadists such as Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, who inspired Al-Qaeda in Iraq and is now in jail in Jordan.

Such websites, Hahn said, are also used to raise money.

Hahn pointed to the arrest by Czech police in May of eight individuals in Prague suspected of plotting attacks in the North Caucasus as possible proof of ties to Al-Qaeda.

The rebels goal is a state called the Caucasus Emirate, stretching from the Black Sea to the Caspian.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has labeled the insurgency Russia’s top security threat.

Hahn noted Chechen-born rebel leader Doku Umarov has called for the Caucasus Emirate to be incorporated into global jihad…

The full report can be accessed through CSIS’s website here.

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Ibn al-Khattab: the bin Laden of Chechnya

April 21, 2013

Well-to-do Saudi served as Chechen commander and jihadist financier

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/1952053.stm

Deceased Chechen commander Ibn al-Khattab

In Money Jihad’s earlier post on the history of terror finance in Chechnya, one name came up again and again:  Ibn al-Khattab.  The terrorist leader was an early disciple of Osama bin Laden, and would benefit from bin Laden’s encouragement and financial support for years until al-Khattab’s death in 2002.

But al-Khattab was also a force unto himself, managing the flow of jihadist recruits and financing their operations in the Chechen guerrilla war against Russia.  One of the better descriptions of al-Khattab’s activities comes from the book Chechen Jihad by Yossef Bodansky.  Here’s an excerpt:

The Chechen jihadists received another injection of strength at this time with the arrival of an organized group of hardened Arab mujahedin from the Gulf states, including Saudis and Kuwaities, and the Maghreb region of north Africa, including Algerian, Moroccan, Tunisian, and other troops.  These fighters were commanded by one Ibn al-Khattab, often referred to as Emir Khattab or simply Khattab.  Khattab, whose real name was Samir bin Salakh al-Suwailim, was a Bedouin from the Suwailim tribe of northwest Saudi Arabia and southern Jordan; over the years he has identified himself with both nations, depending on the circumstances.  Born in 1970 to a fairly wealthy and well-educated family, Khattab received both Western and Muslim education, including learning English.  In 1987 he was accepted to a college in the United States, but before continuing with his education, he decided to visit Afghanistan and briefly participate in the jihad.

Arriving in Pakistan in the fall of 1987, Khattab met some of the key leaders of the Arab “Afghans,” including Sheikh Abdallah Azzam, Sheikh Tamim Adnani, and Osama bin Laden.  Captivated by their call for jihad, he committed his life to the jihad.  Khattab ccompleted his training in the international camp in Jalalabad, under Hassan al-Sarehi, the commander of the 1987 Lion’s Den operation in Jaji.  Impressed with the zeal and skills of his young trainee, Sarehi invited Khattab to join his forces in Jaji.  Between 1988 and 1993, Khattab participated in all the major operations in the Afghan jihad, including the capture of Jalalabad, Khowst, and Kabul.  He also spent time expanding his knowledge of Islam and his military skills, while becoming conversant in both Pashto and Russian.

Khattab would later claim that he decided to join the Chechen jihad after seeing televised footage of Islamist mujahedin reciting takbirs (Koranic verses) before going into battle.  But his status as a commander also played a role.  By the early 1990s, Khattab had emerged as one of the most fierce and competent commanders, popular with both the Afghan and the Arab “Afghan” mujahedin.  He also became one of bin Laden’s key protégés.  Khattab spent the years between early 1993 and early 1995 commanding a small Arab elite force in support of the Tajik Islamist mujahedin, particularly in the Fergana Valley.  He returned to Afghanistan to train and lead one of the first elite forces to go to Chechnya.

When bin Laden and the Islamist-Jihadist leadership decided to escalate the jihad in the Caucasus, they summoned Khattab back from Tajikistan and dispatched him to Chechnya.  Ali Hammad, a senior al Qaeda commander in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the mid-1990s, knew Khattab as a senior commander under bin Laden and considered him “one of the more important personalities in Al Qaeda.”  Ali Hammad confirmed that Khattab went to Chechnya on bin Laden’s orders, and that he and bin Laden personally managed the subsequent flow of jihadist volunteers into the area.

Khattab arrived in Chechnya in the spring of 1995 with eight veteran Arab “Afghan” commanders, followed by a few dozen combat veterans.  He soon became one of the most important commanders in Chechnya, quickly forming a close relationship with Shamil Basayev.  One of Basayev’s closest personal friends, Chechnya’s onetime foreign minister Shamil Beno, reported that Basayev underwent a profound change in 1995 under Khattab’s influence.  Basayev “started moving from freedom for Chechnya to freedom for the whole Arab world,” Beno said.  “He changed from a Chechen patriot into an Islamic globalist.”

But al-Khattab didn’t only receive funds from the Middle East and Al Qaeda.  He was the recipient of zakat donations from U.S. Muslims.  Benevolence International Foundation, a Saudi-created Islamic charity which relocated to Chicago in 1993, was shut down by the Bush administration after 9/11 for its role in financing jihad in Bosnia and Chechnya.  The racketeering trial against BIF’s leader revealed that “[Al-Khattab] did have ties to Saudi Arabia: a fund-raising website listed the Benevolence International Foundation—originally a Saudi-based charity—as a vehicle for contributions.”

The Obama administration and its allies would later criticize George W. Bush for creating a “chilling effect” on Muslim charitable giving by closing down organizations such as BIF, and Pres. Obama personally promised to make it easier for American Muslims to donate zakat.

In addition to receiving money from BIF, al-Khattab secured funding from Osama bin Laden in 1999 to fund Chechen operations.  The website History Commons has noted that Osama bin Laden and Ibn al-Khattab also shared the same wealthy Arab donor network.  By October 2001, Khattab had an enough of a financial war chest to offer to pay salaries and death benefits to jihadists who went to fight in Afghanistan against the impending American and coalition invasion.

It’s a mistake to think that any single terrorist operation only cost the price of materials used to carry out the operation.  It takes a lot of money to create a culture of indoctrination, training, and media messaging.  A single attack is the result of sizable investments over a long period of time by men such as Ibn al-Khattab.

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North Caucasus jihadists’ money traces back to Saudi Arabia and Osama bin Laden

April 19, 2013

The seed money of major North Caucasus or Chechen terrorist groups such as the Caucasus Emirate, the Islamic International Peacekeeping Brigade (IIPB), the Special Purpose Islamic Regiment (SPIR) and the Riyadus-Salikhin Reconnaissance and Sabotage Battalion of Chechen Martyrs (RSRSBCM) can all be traced back to Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.

Although we don’t yet know to which groups the two Russian-born brothers of Chechen descent who were identified as suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings may belong, it’s important to take a look back at the origins of the money behind the North Caucasus jihadist network overall.

Islamic International Peacekeeping Brigade

The Council on Foreign Relations says that, “According to the U.S. State Department, the Islamic International Peacekeeping Brigade is the primary channel for Islamic funding of the Chechen guerillas, in part through links to al-Qaeda-related financiers on the Arabian Peninsula.”

The Middle East Forum has more on IIPB:

In October 1999, emissaries of [IIPB founder Shamil Basayev] and [mujahideen leader] Ibn al-Khattab traveled to Kandahar where bin Laden agreed to provide fighters, equipment, and money to conduct terrorism and aid the fight against Russia. Later that year, bin Laden reportedly sent substantial sums of money to Basayev, Ibn al-Khattab, and Chechen commander Arbi Barayev to train gunmen, recruit mercenaries, and buy ammunition.

The United Nations says that, “With Al‑Qaida’s financial support, Al-Khattab also mobilized fighters from Ingushetia, Ossetia, Georgia and Azerbaijan to fight in Chechnya and Dagestan.”

History Commons offers further details similarities between Ibn Khattab and Osama Bin Laden, and the U.S. and U.K.-based imams who have funded Chechen rebels:

They share fundraising and recruiting networks. For example, a Florida cell of radical Sunnis that is monitored by the FBI starting in 1993 is involved with both organizations (see (October 1993-November 2001). Radical London imam Abu Qatada raises money for jihad in Chechnya (see 1995-February 2001 and February 2001) and is a key figure in al-Qaeda-related terrorism who is in communication with al-Qaeda logistics manager Abu Zubaida. [BBC, 3/23/2004; Nasiri, 2006, pp. 273] The Finsbury Park mosque of fellow London imam Abu Hamza al-Masri is used as a conduit for funds for both jihad in Chechnya and bin Laden’s Darunta camp in Afghanistan (see March 1999 and March 2000-February 2001)…

Khattab repaid Bin Laden in kind:  “In October 2001, Khattab sent additional fighters to Afghanistan and promised to pay the volunteers’ families a substantial monthly stipend or a large lump-sum payment in the event of their death.”

Special Purpose Islamic Regiment

In a 2003 study, the CDI found that, “Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network provided much ideological and financial support to the SPIR after the mid-1990’s. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Rivers of fake money flow into India

April 19, 2013

A flood of counterfeit notes from Dubai, Pakistan, Jammu and Kashmir, Nepal, Bangladesh, and to some extent from Sri Lanka have left Indians swimming in a pool of devalued rupees.

http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2013/02/12/article-2277688-178A6F62000005DC-489_634x445.jpg

The fake Indian currency note crisis is benefiting terrorist organizations such as Hizbul Mujahideen and Dawood Ibrahim’s D-Gang with backing from the Pakistani ISI spy service.  Profits from counterfeiting help militants buy weapons.

http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/made-in-pakistan-fake-money-floods-india/1/123103.html

There seems to be a new story from Indian media every two weeks or so documenting the surging problem.  Here’s the latest from the Times of India, which illustrates both the J&K and Bangladeshi points of ingress for bogus bills, and the jihadist beneficiaries:

NIA files charges against 3 for raising terror funds for Hizbul Mujahideen

TNN Apr 12, 2013

NEW DELHI: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has filed charge sheet against three more persons, including a Bangladeshi national, for allegedly raising terror fund for the banned outfit Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) through circulation of fake Indian currency notes (FICN) in Jammu & Kashmir.

The charge sheet against the three accused Badal Sheikh and Fayaz Ahmed (both Indians) and Shafiq-ul (Bangladeshi) was filed in the NIA Special Court in Jammu under various sections of the Ranbir Penal Code and the central anti-terror Act on Wednesday.

The Court subsequently issued a non-bailable warrant against absconding Shafiq-ul who was key point person of the Indian accused for supplying FICN through a trans-border cattle smuggler – Badal Sheikh — of West Bengal’s Malda district.

Earlier, the probe agency had filed charge sheet against five persons in the case, alleging that the accused used to procure and supply high quality FICN from Bangladesh and smuggle it into Jammu & Kashmir for raising funds for the terror group.

The five who were charge sheeted earlier include two HM members – Mubarak Ahmed Bhat and Shafaqat Mohiudding Kuchey – and Badal Sheikh.

The NIA in its charge sheet claimed that HM operatives had first contacted Badal who, in turn, approached the Bangladeshi national for procurement of FICN.

“Fayaz Ahmed Rather – a notorious FICN smuggler – started getting high quality fake Indian currency notes from Malda and circulate it in Jammu & Kashmir,” said the NIA.

It’s interesting to note the cattle rustling connection in this story.  The black market in cows, which are revered and illegal to export from India, is a growing area for illicit trade along the border of India and Bangladesh.

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Money jihad news: recommended reading

April 18, 2013
  • Cyber attacks are often treated as technology news. But now it’s more about bucks than bits… more>>
  • So generous of Venezuela to have given a diplomatic passport Hezbollah agent Ghazi Nasr al Din . How many more operatives like him are immune from baggage searches at customs?  More>>
  • You’re a kidnapped Filipino, and your government won’t pay for your ransom. Why your government is right… more>>
  • The Palestinian Authority denies paying salaries to terrorists in Israeli prisons.  I beg to disagree, says prisoner’s wife… more>>
  • Are the FARC and Al Qaeda partnering in a cocaine-for-cash and weapons trade? And you thought cash-for-clunkers was bad… more>>
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Word of the week: soft loan

April 17, 2013

Among the hundreds of requests for zakat or other financial assistance that Money Jihad has received from overseas spammers, a couple have involved requests for a “soft loan.”

In June 2011 through our “Contact us” page, Wisnu Wibowo wrote, “Asalamualaikum… I hope someone can help with soft loan” purportedly to keep him out of jail for a $2,000 debt.  Borrowing from Peter to pay Paul, it would seem.

In January of this year, somebody named Krisna Busana Karya also contacted Money Jihad demanding “grants or soft loan” with a five year term to help with an oyster cultivation business with an eye toward a growing market in Jakarta.  Tempting offer, Krisna, but no thanks.

What is a “soft loan”?

A soft loan is defined as “A loan made on terms lower than or more favourable to the borrower than regular commercial terms”.*

Soft loans are repaid with interest, but it may be at a smaller interest rate or payable over a longer term than conventional loans.  Since interest is involved, soft loans are not sharia-compliant.

Nevertheless, extending a soft loan to a borrower who cannot meet conventional terms suggests that the lender is taking on risk in excess of what the capital markets normally bear.  Therefore, soft loans are somewhat similar to sharia finance in that both deviate from fair market interest rates.  Soft loans, like sharia loans, come with strings attached, such as concessions made by the borrower.

People do not lend for free.  Reduce or eliminate interest rates, and lenders will come up with ways of recouping the costs through fees or other methods.  Is “ethical finance” truly ethical when the actual cost of borrowing is obscured by fees and special conditions, rather than a transparent, market-based interest rate that is known to both parties?

* Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, Glossary of Terms for Agricultural Insurance and Rural Finance (Rome:  FAO, 1992).