Posts Tagged ‘Al-Aqsa Foundation’

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Spotlight: terror finance in the Netherlands

February 24, 2014

A reader recently asked Money Jihad for information on terrorist financing based in the Netherlands.  An examination of Dutch charities, the banking sector, and crime rings is necessary to begin understanding how terrorists have used the Netherlands to fund their activities.

Dutch zakat

The majority of terrorist financing problems in the Netherlands over the past decade have originated from the Islamic charitable sector, particularly from Dutch Muslim groups purporting to provide “relief” in the Palestinian territories.

In 2003, the Dutch blocked Al-Aqsa Foundation assets in the Netherlands after discovering that Al-Aqsa funded terrorism in the Middle East.  A previous manager of Al-Aqsa in the Netherlands, Amin Abu Rashed, was recently described by a financial crimes expert as, “the principal representative of Hamas in Holland.”  Al Haramain Islamic Foundation, the Saudi-based terror front charity, was once active in the Netherlands as well.

Palestinian terror funding probably shifted after the Al-Aqsa closure to Internationale Steun Rechtstreeks Aan Armen (ISRAA).  ISRAA remains active in the Palestinian territories and Syria, and maintains tax-exempt status in the Netherlands.

In April 2011, the Netherlands froze the assets of the Dutch branch of the Turkish, pro-Hamas charity IHH.  A court later overturned the freeze, and IHH Nederland continues to operate in Holland.

Islamic Relief Nederland, a chapter of Islamic Relief Worldwide, is involved at least indirectly in the financing of terrorism through its parent organization. IRW has previously funded Hamas and Al Qaeda operatives.  Like ISRAA, IR Nederland is currently active in Syria.

Groups linked with the Muslim Brotherhood in the Netherlands have used domestic and foreign funds to finance their projects.  Dutch intelligence revealed in 2010 that Salafi networks exploit generous Dutch public benefit programs to fund their own activities.  Europe Trust Netherlands (ETN), a leading Dutch-Muslim group, has worked with Muslim Brotherhood leaders last year to arrange Gulf-based financing for the controversial Blue Mosque project in Amsterdam.

Banking sector threats

The large Dutch banking sector, which includes internationally known firms such as ING (which settled with U.S. authorities in 2012 over Cuban and Iranian sanctions violations), has probably been a factor in drawing some terrorist financiers and interlocutors to have a presence in the Netherlands.  After 9/11, it was reported that the Al Rajhi banking family, whose patriarch was named in the Golden Chain document for funding Osama Bin Laden, reportedly maintained “a large portion of their funding from the Netherlands. The family owns an investment company in Amsterdam, which has funded ‘islamic investments’ for well over a billion dollars.”

The Islamic finance sector in the Netherlands is also a source of concern.  Islamic finance has been documented as a sector marred by a lack of transparency and an increased risk of diverting profits toward terrorism as a form of corporate zakat.

Financial crimes and smuggling

Illicit transfers for terrorism based in the Netherlands have also taken place among criminal rings of various sizes.  Tamil Tiger terrorists have used the Netherlands as a funding base with front organizations operating there.  The trade in khat, a stimulant that is legal to import in the Netherlands, has been known for several years to fund the al-Shabaab terrorist organization in Somalia.  More recently, Sunni donors have transferred funds from the Netherlands for jihad in Yemen.  Meanwhile, a Dutch fugitive from Panamanian justice, Okke Ornstein, is subject to an INTERPOL red notice and is probably involved with laundering money for Hamas.

Lastly, it should be noted that former Dutch dependencies which have relaxed regulatory climates may also be susceptible to abuse for financial crimes.  Hezbollah allegedly maintains bank accounts in the Dutch Antilles.  Khalid Bin Mahfouz (the Saudi billionaire who sued Rachel Ehrenfeld for reporting that he funded terrorism), once parked money in the Dutch Antilles in a company called Pathfinder Investments, according to the Wall Street Journal.  Pathfinder funds were subsequently transferred to the Success Foundation, a Virginia-based front charity for the International Islamic Relief Organization, a Saudi-backed office which was closed after 9/11 for its role in financing Al Qaeda.

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Charity’s bank accounts closed over Hamas ties

February 19, 2013

The Al-Aqsa Foundation’s account with the First National Bank of South Africa has been suspended.  The alleged Palestinian relief charity is already blacklisted by the U.S.

An intriguing part of this article is a brief reference to Al-Aqsa opening an account with a second bank, Al-Baraka, after Al-Aqsa was notified that First National Bank would be closing Al-Aqsa’s account.  Al-Aqsa must have believed that Al-Baraka, a branch of the Bahrain-based sharia finance conglomerate known as the Al-Baraka Banking Group, would have been a safe haven for its tainted funds.  However, once the attempt to evade international sanctions by simply opening a new account with a second South African bank was discovered, Al-Baraka has no choice but to suspend Al-Aqsa’s account as well.

In similar developments elsewhere, TCF Financial Corp. is closing the accounts of several Iranian students at the University of Minnesota, and UBS closed a bank account belonging to the UK-based Islamic Relief late last year.

From the Daily Maverick:

Banking woes for SA charity suspected of financing Hamas

The Al Aqsa Foundation has had its banking facilities with two South African banks suspended in recent weeks. Despite being registered with the South African government as a bona fide charity, the foundation is believed to be covertly funnelling funds to Hamas. By KHADIJA PATEL.

The Al-Aqsa Foundation, a charity registered with the Department of Social Development focusing on providing aid to Palestinians has recently had its banking facilities with two South African banks suspended. The Foundation is suspected by the US government to be raising funds for Hamas, the Palestinian resistance movement and governing authority of the Gaza strip.

In December, First National Bank (FNB) issued Al-Aqsa Foundation with three months’ notice before completely shutting its account. In a statement, the CEO of FNB Commercial Banking Michael Vacy-Lyle explained, “It has come to the bank’s attention that the foundation is expressly listed by the US Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and other international sanctions lists.”

The move received widespread condemnation from the South African Muslim community, with at least one prominent cleric calling for a boycott of FNB. The Media Review Network, an organisation focused on the representation of Islam and Muslims in the media, deplored FNB heeding to the dictate of “foreign” agents, despite the Foundation receiving a clean audit from the Department of Social Services.

FNB, however, has sought to dismiss allegations that it has been bullied by the US government into closing the account. The listing is said to have come to the attention of the bank over a year ago during routine internal governance processes, and closing the account is an act of expedience that allows FNB to keep up its relationships with other financial institutions in the US.

Vacy-Lyle said, “The international financial community imposes stringent obligations in respect of the maintenance of banking relationships with entities listed by OFAC and the decision by FNB to terminate its relationship with the foundation is a consequence of this fact alone.”

Annette Hübschle, a researcher focused on the organised crime-terror nexus, said the move to close the Foundation’s account in light of the US listing was revealing of who holds the greatest power in global politics.

Last week it was revealed that another South African bank, Al-Baraka bank, had also frozen an account of the Al-Aqsa Foundation – this account had been opened after FNB had indicated it would be terminating the Foundation’s account.

According to another statement from FNB quoted by Channel Islam International, “The closure is a requirement of global banking governance and is applicable to all South African Banks including Al-Baraka Bank.”

Hübschle agrees. “They have all signed up to the Basel regulations,” she said. “In essence, banks do have to comply, not necessarily with the US, but more if they want to do business in the US then they actually do have to comply.”

She names the example of The Palestinian Relief and Development Fund (Interpal) as a case in point. “In 2003, the US Treasury named Interpal a ‘specially designated global terrorist group’ that directly financed Hamas, while the British Charity Commission gave Interpal a clean bill of health. This perhaps reflects a disagreement about where charity ends and extremism begins,” she said.

The Al-Aqsa Foundation has been described by the United States as a “critical part of Hamas’ transnational terrorist support infrastructure”. According to the US government, Hamas “uses humanitarian relief as cover to provide support to the Hamas terrorist organisation”. Hamas, the governing authority of the Gaza strip, is further designated by the US Secretary of State as a “Foreign Terrorist Organisation”. According to the US, Hamas is known to raise millions of dollars per year throughout the world using charitable fundraising as a cover. Al-Aqsa Foundation is alleged to be one such mask for more nefarious Hamas activity…