Archive for April, 2014

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Lessons learned from 6 big terrorist windfalls

April 29, 2014

Terror finance trials over the last ten years have frequently involved transfers by individuals of a few thousand dollars to terrorist organizations abroad. Sometimes those cases get as much attention from the news media and law enforcement as multi-million dollar cases of funding terrorism.

This tendency is unfortunate because it causes us to lose sight of the big time patrons of terrorism and their methods. Small transfers are likelier to involve individual actors, small groups, and criminal activity. High-dollar terrorist transactions are likelier to involve state sponsorship, or at least large organizations such as major charities, and sometimes corporations which are targeted for extortion or kidnapping-for-ransom schemes by militants. Consider:

• France paid $15 to $20 million to the Taliban for the 2011 release of reporters Stéphane Taponier and Hervé Ghesquière. France may have also paid a $34 million ransom to Al Qaeda in North Africa for the release of four captives last year, and an $18 million ransom just last week to release four journalists abducted by Syrian rebels.

• The Holy Land Foundation, largest Islamic “charity” in the U.S. in the early 2000s, gave $12.4 million to Hamas. George W. Bush said that the money HLF raised was “used by Hamas to recruit suicide bombers and support their families.” The leaders of HLF were found guilty of providing material support to terrorism and received sentences ranging from 15 to 65 years in federal prison.

• Qatar has spent an estimated $3 billion (or, less credibly, $5 billion) to fund Al Qaeda-linked rebels in Syria. In so doing they’ve helped turn Syria into a charnel house with over 150,000 dead since 2011.

• Carlos the Jackal received, according to different accounts, either $20 million or $50 million from the Saudi government in 1975 to release the OPEC ministers he had taken hostage. Allegedly, this money wasn’t used by Carlos himself but was pumped back toward international terrorist causes. Eventually, Carlos the Jackal was caught and sentenced to life in prison in France on separate charges.

• The Born brother heirs to the multinational Bunge and Born corporation were forced to pay a $60 million ransom to leftwing Montoneros terrorists in Argentina in 1974. Some of the money may have been kept in shadowy Argentine and Cuban banks. Mario Firmenich, mastermind of the plot, was convicted in 1987.

• The Palestinian Authority just pledged another $74 million to spend as incentives and stipends for terrorist “martyrs” and their families from their annual budget.

Several lessons should be learned from the above sampling of terrorist jackpots:

1. Don’t pay ransoms. Paying ransoms is the quickest way to fund millions of dollars worth of future terrorist attacks and to increase the likelihood of larger ransom demands down the road.

2. In cases of suspected terrorist financing, always look at both the source and the beneficiary of the funding—not just one party in isolation. With the Holy Land Foundation, we tend to focus mostly on HLF as a contributor, without examining how Hamas uses Islamic charities in the West to finance its operations. Likewise in the Taponier and Ghesquière case, what little coverage there was in English language media focused on the ransom negotiations and French foreign policy, while completely ignoring the aftermath of what the Taliban and the Baryal Qari group did with the money. We learn more from each case when we look at both sides of the equation. Read the rest of this entry ?

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How 2 controversial terror group conspirators profit from halal food corporate sponsorships

April 28, 2014

Crescent Foods, a major U.S. halal foods manufacturer, has partnerships with two major Islamic groups that were named as co-conspirators during the terror finance trial against the Holy Land Foundation.

Crescent Foods has sponsored an events conducted by the Council for American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and has “teamed up” with the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) to create a national halal certification board. ISNA itself describes Crescent Foods president Ahmad Adam, a Palestinian Arab American, as a “founding member” of ISNA.

Court documents showed that CAIR and ISNA conspired with HLF in sending $12 million to Hamas in the early 2000s. The HLF was shut down and its former leaders are in prison. Federal prosecutors under attorney general Eric Holder have declined to prosecute CAIR and ISNA.

In addition to its HLF links, Crescent Foods has somewhat murky relationships with undocumented charitable groups. Crescent Foods’s philanthropic activities include sponsorship of a Chicago-based entity known as “Refugee Assistance Programs” (RAP-US) on Victoria Lane in Glendale Heights. Although it solicits donations on its website, RAP-US is not a registered charity with the Illinois attorney general’s office, nor has it filed for tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service. RAP-US describes itself as a member of the “Golden Door Coalition,” a similarly un-registered entity.

Crescent Foods has also supplied food at a variety of events coordinated by Islamic organizations, including “proud” sponsorship of conferences hosted by the radical American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) group.

The relationships between Crescent Foods and the HLF associates are not unique in the shadowy and lucrative world of halal certification. IFANCA, probably the most significant halal certifying entity in the U.S., is also tied to HLF co-conspirators and Muslim Brotherhood front groups. Both IFANCA and Crescent Foods have participated in ISNA’s Halal Food Forum.

The Muslim Association of Canada, a primary halal certifying entity, has given money to IRFAN, a charity which was stripped of its tax-exempt status by Canada Revenue Agency for its financial contributions to Hamas. Halal certification in France has been documented to redound primarily to the benefit of the Muslim Brotherhood.

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Dutch Muslim group urges Moroccan pension fraud

April 27, 2014

The Dutch benefits agency SVB is trying to find out the value of assets held by public benefit recipients. To assist in that effort, they’ve asked Moroccan pensioners for their Moroccan identity numbers, because many of them have properties and even businesses in Morocco from which they generate income that they have not disclosed to the authorities in the Netherlands.

Meanwhile, a Muslim foundation known as the Euro-Mediterranean Center of Migration & Development (Emcemo) is encouraging Moroccan immigrants to withhold their identity numbers from SVB.

The benefits should be suspended until the recipients comply. They were probably required to disclose foreign assets when they first applied for benefits anyway. Financing terrorism with fraudulently claimed benefits by Islamist immigrants, which has been endorsed by the likes of Anwar al-Awlaki and Anjem Choudary and implemented by men like the Tsarnaev brothers, is an increasing threat to Western democracies.  De Telegraaf has previously reported on the exploitation of public benefits in the Netherlands by radical Salafist networks.

Vlad Tapes has the exclusive English version of this report from Apr. 15:

Holland: Islamic foundation instructs Moroccans how to commit benefit fraud

“Euro-Mediterranean Centre of Migration & Development” sounds like EU or OECD, but I found out that it is an Islamic foundation. Via 10news.dk, translated by Sjoerd from Parool:

Moroccans not happy with fraud inquiry of Social Insurance Bank

The Euro-Mediterranean Centre of Migration & Development (Emcemo) in Amsterdam is calling on Moroccan elderly not to provide their Moroccan identity number to the Social Insurance Bank (SVB). With that information the SVB traces social benefit fraud.

SVB asks Moroccan recipients of Additional Provision Income Elderly (AIO) since last week in a letter to pass that number. Thus the SVB can check in Morocco if someone owns houses, land or savings in that country.

This benefit is for older people with an inadequate pension and little capital and little additional revenue: with the AIO, the state pension is supplemented to match the minimum income. It is mandatory to report foreign property but it is often difficult for the SVB to check if someone has done that.”

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The mystery of a $10 million terror transfer

April 25, 2014

Thirty-four billion Pakistani rupees (approx. 10.4 million USD) have been transferred to major cities in Pakistan near the border of Afghanistan over the past two years; the beneficiaries of the transfers may have included terrorist groups. The transfers were revealed by Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency earlier this year to the Express Tribune:

Funding terrorism: Illegal cash flows may be aiding terrorists

KARACHI:  Terrorist groups in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and Balochistan have been receiving billions of rupees each month through banking channels and money exchange companies, sources in Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) have revealed.

These companies in collusion with some bankers have been transferring huge amounts to unnamed bank accounts in Quetta and Peshawar. The FIA has recently found evidence of transfer of billions of rupees to the two cities in the last few months.

According to sources, the FIA made these discoveries during its investigations into the multibillion rupee Trade Development Authority Pakistan (TDAP) scam.

Ironically, the Financial Monitoring Unit (FMU) and other institutions, whose task is to curb the illegal business of hundi and hawala, are completely unaware of these dubious transactions, made right under their nose.

If the law enforcers can trace the people receiving billions of rupees through unnamed accounts in Peshawar and Quetta, they will possibly be able to unearth terrorist activities funded by this money…

The Business Recorder provided more details a few weeks ago, reporting that TDAP and commerce ministry officials set up shell companies that claimed trade subsidies known as “general freight subsidies” or “freight subsidies” for the export of “live seafood.” The subsidy checks were then deposited in 10 banks which transferred the $10 million over a 30 month period. Ninety percent of the money obtained through bogus trade subsidy claims was later withdrawn in cash, and some money was subsequently sent to banks in the United Arab Emirates and the West.

The FIA has urged the State Bank of Pakistan to carry out a forensic audit into the transfers.  Yeah, might be a good idea, fellas.

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Al-Shabaab financial news roundup

April 24, 2014

Thanks to all the tipsters who sent in these items:

» Kenyan police have identified two youth outreach coordinators in Mombasa who incite violence during sermons at mosques and offer who small signing bonuses for new al-Shabaab recruits.  (Hat tip to El Grillo)

» Also in Mombasa, Kenyan authorities are are investigating local businessmen for their role in trafficking weapons and recruiting fighters for al-Shabaab.  The businessmen have used up to 20 domestic and international banks to for their activities.  Officials are also monitoring Riyadh mosque in Nairobi, and Masjid Mujahideen (formerly known as Sakina mosque) and Masjid Shuhadaa (f.k.a. Masjid Musa) in Mombasa for their promotion of jihad in Somalia.

» Meanwhile in downtown Nairobi, a dozen shops are financing al-Shabaab and radical madrasas as well.  The shops are still in business.  Nobody in Kenya appears to have been arrested yet despite the fact that authorities have tipped them off.

» An Ethiopian member of parliament has pointed to a different culprit in fattening al-Shabaab’s portfolio–Egypt.   Egypt is spending money on weapons, indoctrination, and training for al-Shabaab according to the MP who says, “American taxpayers should demand answers from the Obama administration on why billions of their money is going to a country that funds terrorism in East Africa.”  Indeed.

» Barclays attempted to stop doing business with Dahabshiil over the Somali wire service’s lax money laundering and terror finance controls last year, but a court injunction forced their relationship to continue temporarily (despite reports that Dahabshiil pays $1 million to al-Shabaab annually).  Now Barclays and Dahabshiil have struck an agreement which will keep them in business together until Dahabshiil finds another bank to transfer its funds. (H/t Mean Kitteh)

» Foreign aid to Somalia has not been accurately accounted for, and has either been stolen or used or to fund militias, according to an investigative report.   The UAE sent $48 million in 2013 off-the-books, Qatar sent $25 million of which only $5 million was properly accounted for, and Iran sent $20 million in cash that was never deposited through official channels. The report revealed that “The diversion of public funds in Somalia is made easier by the fact that most Arab donors prefer to give their aid in cash.”   (H/t SomaliSijui)

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Libyan arms issued to regional terrorists

April 21, 2014

Weapons are pouring into Libya from around the Mediterranean, for both domestic use among rival factions and for follow-on trafficking to neighboring African hotspots and to Syria, according to a recent UN report.

The unraveling of Libya indicates that the Obama strategy of “leading from behind” during the intervention was unwise, and included little if any plan for the long-term stabilization of Libya or for an orderly resolution to Libya’s political problems. Libya has turned into a more chaotic state that is destabilizing its neighbors than Iraq became under Bush.

The UN report includes evidence from 2013 that blackmarket merchants near the Libyan-Tunisian border are working with Al Qaeda: “Two main caches were discovered in urban areas in Medenine and Mnilah. According to the authorities, the materiel came from Libya in transfers financed by groups linked to Al-Qaida through commercial smugglers.”

Reason blog has helpful piece highlighting some of the other main points from the UN report:

UN Report: Security Situation in Libya ‘Considerably Deteriorated,’ Arms Exported Throughout Region

Ed Krayewski|Mar. 13, 2014

Arms largely in control of non-government groups in a deteriorating Libya are making their way by air, land, and sea to countries from Nigeria to Syria, according to a United Nations report by a panel of experts on the situation in Libya. That panel was tasked with reviewing the effectiveness of arms embargos, travel bans, and asset freezes implemented by various Security Council resolutions, including Resolution 1973, which authorized a no-fly zone over Libya and was used to justify NATO intervention.

On the arms embargo, the panel complains of “limited resources with which to cover a two-way embargo that is breached on a regular basis and covers the entirety of Libya’s territory” and that the “geographical area covered by the Panel’s investigations expands every year and includes a large part of Africa, Europe and the Middle East.” One of the panel’s recommendations is for more experts to analyze the situations on the ground. According to the report, weapons from Libya have reached Tunisia, Algeria, Mali, Niger, Chad, Nigeria, the Central African Republic, Somalia, Egypt, and the Gaza Strip, almost a who’s who of deteriorating security situations in the wider region. The U.N. reports weapons are also trafficked via Turkey, Lebanon, and Qatar.

The panel is concerned, too, that some companies doing business with gun stores in Libya don’t even know about the U.N. embargo. Handguns, in particular, are in high demand, according to the report, which suggests members of security forces could be selling their handguns to civilians. Government agencies in Libya anyway rely on local armed groups for some public security, which the U.N. panel points to as an implication weapons are likely being shared.

The demand for guns among civilians shouldn’t be as a surprise. The U.N. panel describes a security situation that’s “considerably deteriorated” and reports continued significant increases in “carjacking, robbery, kidnappings, tribal disputes, political assassinations, armed attacks and clashes, explosions from improvised explosive devices and demonstrations.”

It’s likely not regular Libyans worried about their personal and family security that’s a primary contributing factor to the overall security situation in Libya. Instead, it’s what the U.N. panel identifies as a “complicated mix of Al-Qaida affiliated and inspired groups” that have set up across Libya in the chaos that followed the 2011 intervention. The panel describes a firefight between Special Forces from the Libyan government and Ansal al-Shariah in Benghazi in November that killed nine. A campaign of assassinations and suicide bombings has followed in the city. The U.N. report also relays a raid on a Libyan military base identified as “camp 27,” where the United States may have been training and supplying Libyan forces. The U.S. government responded to the panel’s questions that “some items that had been transferred to Libyan control were unaccounted for and presumed stolen”…

Thanks to Genug for the news tip.

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Bogus orphans charity banned, raided for financing Hezbollah

April 20, 2014

On April 8, German authorities announced a ban of the Hezbollah-funding Islamic “charity” known as Orphans Project Lebanon and raided their offices across the country.

Orphans Project Lebanon had been under scrutiny for several years. It lost its preferential tax treatment a few years ago, but was allowed to continue operating, as Money Jihad highlighted last year, partly because the EU did not consider Hezbollah to be a terrorist organization at the time. Since then, the EU has changed its policy, and German authorities have presumably been building their case against Orphans Project Lebanon behind the scenes.

Thanks to Puneet, Sal, and El Grillo for sending in links about this. From AFP/The Local:

Germany outlaws ‘Hezbollah fundraisers’

German authorities banned a group on Tuesday accused of raising millions of euros for Lebanese militant organization Hezbollah and helping the families of suicide bombers. Police staged raids across the country.

The interior ministry said it had outlawed the “Waisenkinderprojekt Libanon” (Orphan Children Project Lebanon) with immediate effect, although on Wednesday morning the group’s website was still up and running.

“The name of the group masks its actual purpose,” ministry state secretary Emily Haber said in a statement.

She said the organization, based in the western city of Essen, had raised €3.3 million in donations between 2007 and 2013 for the Lebanese Shahid Foundation, an “integral” part of Hezbollah.

The ministry said the funds were used to recruit fighters “to combat Israel, also with terrorist measures” and compensate the families of suicide bombers.

“Organizations that directly or indirectly from German soil oppose the state of Israel’s right to exist may not seek freedom of association protection,” Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said in the statement.

He said the group’s goals violated Germany’s constitution.

Around 160 police officers searched premises across six states and confiscated cash, computers and 120 boxes of files. The raids took place in Berlin, North Rhine-Westphalia, Baden-Württemberg, Bremen, Lower Saxony and Rhineland Palatinate.

Two bank accounts with a total of around €104,000 were frozen but no arrests were made.

The ministry said it had kept Waisenkinderprojekt Libanon, which has about 80 members, under surveillance since 2009…

As Money Jihad has pointed out several times, orphans are often exploited by jihadist groups as a cover for transferring money toward their own purposes.