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What’s really behind the Saudi rewards program

February 16, 2014

Saudi Arabia says it will offer rewards to people within the kingdom who provide evidence about terrorist financing that leads to a conviction (hat tip to El Grillo).

It has been rumored that the maneuver is designed to reign in Saudi-backed elements among the Syrian rebels whom Saudi Arabia can no longer control.

Money Jihad suspects that the initiative, which resembles the U.S. Rewards for Justice program, is a Saudi smokescreen designed to placate Western diplomats, U.S. Treasury officials, and international financial watchdog FATF.

Unfortunately, this wouldn’t be the first instance of Saudi deception about a counter-terror finance initiative.

In 2008, Saudi Arabia announced that its central bank, SAMA, would review charitable contributions from Saudi Arabia overseas (which are rife with donations to terrorist causes), but meaningful oversight has never occurred.  Saudi public statements about the SAMA program have been documented to be false.

In 2010, Saudi Arabia’s ulema council issued a ruling against terrorism, but the very same ruling defended zakat, which has often been used by wealthy Saudis to finance terrorist causes.  Saudi pronouncements against terrorism have often focused on protecting its own oil and gas infrastructure, and have pointedly excluded suicide bombers in Israel or Iraq from its definition of terrorism.

In 2014 we are told that Saudi Arabia will pay rewards to those who provide information about terror finance.  If this is actually enforced, Money Jihad predicts that it will be used against Shia dissidents, particularly in its oil rich, Shia-dominant Eastern Province (see related commentary by Amy Myers Jaffe here), or against those who transfer money to Shias in Bahrain or Syria.

It will not be used to curtail Saudi money flowing to Somalia, Bangladesh, Chechnya, or any of the other countries where Saudi Arabia has strategic interests.

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