Posts Tagged ‘Holy Land Foundation’

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Islamic charity official becomes president of ISNA

December 16, 2014

The country’s largest Muslim group has selected a senior Islamic charity official as its new president. Azhar Azeez was elected as the president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) in August, a Muslim civic group which was an unindicted co-conspirator in the successful trial against the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) for financing Hamas.

Azeez is also the “director of fund development” for Islamic Relief USA (IR-USA), the largest Muslim charity in America, and also oversees IR-USA’s regional offices based in Buena Park, California (Los Angeles area); Santa Clara, California (San Jose area); Palos Hills, Illinois (Chicago area); Totowa, New Jersey (Paterson area); Plano, Texas (Dallas area); and Temple Terrace, Florida (Tampa area). Azeez previously served as the president of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) chapter in Dallas. CAIR was also an unindicted co-conspirator in the HLF case. In his role at IR-USA, Azeez would probably have had authority over grants issued to other domestic organizations, including $118,000 that IR-USA earmarked for terror-affiliated groups in 2013.

The Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Watch notes that CAIR is also part of the Muslim Brotherhood, and that several of Azeez’s professional associates are connected to the Dallas Central Mosque where two of the five convicted HLF leaders were active.

Azeez’s election to such a high-profile position is somewhat surprising given the steady decline in IR-USA’s credibility and reputation over the last several years. IR-USA’s budget tumbled after the charity was revealed to have falsely inflated the value of its drug stockpiles, which represented a significant share of their total assets. IR-USA’s international affiliate—Islamic Relief Worldwide—has been banned by Israel and designated as a terrorist entity by the United Arab Emirates within the past several months. IR-USA’s president was quietly let go in late 2013.

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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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FATF’s terrorist charity typologies

July 9, 2013

The Financial Action Task Force, an international financial watchdog, has updated its “Recommendation 8” pertaining to government oversight of nonprofit organizations.  (Thanks to Arye Glozman who sent in a link to the report).

Overall, the revised recommendations show greater deference to the nonprofit sector and urge restraint by governments in regulating charities than the 2002 version.  This deference is a bit strange considering that using charities as vessels for funding terrorism has not decreased since 2002 then, neither in the West as illustrated by organizations such as the Holy Land Foundation and WAMY Canada, nor in the Middle East and Northern Africa where Gulf-based charities have played a central role in funding and arming Islamist rebels of the Arab Spring.

That being said, the FATF report does present a useful set of typologies to categorize four different types of terrorist “misuse” of nonprofit groups:

  1. Front charities, where everybody from the donors to the charity workers to the beneficiaries knows that the charity is a sham designed to fund terrorism.
  2. Organizations defrauding donors by telling them the money is going toward legitimate programs but then redirect the proceeds to terrorism.
  3. Branch offices of charities defrauding headquarters by misleading the leadership about the branch’s actual programs.
  4. Charity workers abusing their positions to distribute aid to militants.

The “charities” used by Osama bin Laden to funnel money from wealthy Saudi donors to Al Qaeda in the 1990s are a good example of type #1.  Jamaat-ud-Dawa in Pakistan is a good example of a front charity today, with donors and recipients understanding that the money is really for the Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist group.  Many analysts would probably say that the Holy Land Foundation fell into type #2, with donors unwittingly funding Hamas (although some donors knew that their zakat was funding “resistance” against Israel).  Islamic Relief Worldwide can be associated with types #3 and #4 by having a branch office in Gaza that passed money along to Hamas, allegedly without the knowledge of headquarters in England.

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5 ways to fight zakat for jihad

August 6, 2012

Zakat, the Muslim wealth tax and pillar of Islam from which profits can funneled to the mujahideen, has been used repeatedly to fund jihadist operations across the world including the 9/11 terror attacks and the Iraq insurgency.  Despite zakat’s bone-chilling track record, it is extremely unlikely if not impossible to impose an outright ban the practice.

That doesn’t mean we can afford to shrug our shoulders and do nothing to counter the violent, jihadist stream of zakat to terrorism.  We certainly should not, as Pres. Obama said in Cairo, promote zakat-giving by American Muslims.

Here are five models that could be used individually, but preferably in tandem to achieve the best results, to limit the ability of zakat solicitors and donors to use the funds for militant purposes:

5.  The NYPD surveillance model.  The New York Police Department’s surveillance program has been criticized by the Leftist media and Muslim “rights” agitators.  But the NYPD approach offers one of the few hands-on, common sense methods of determining which mosques and charities knowingly undertake to fund terrorism overseas and at home.  Embedding undercover mosque crawlers is not a violation of civil liberties or the freedom to worship—it is a sensible measure based on experience.  The NYPD model could be employed by major metropolitan police departments in places such as Chicago, Minneapolis, and Dearborn.

4. Improved state regulatory oversight.  In the U.S., charities are regulated at the state level, as they should be.  The federal government does not have the enumerated constitutional authority or the wisdom to regulate philanthropy.  But state governments and their top charitable regulators—usually either the state’s secretary of state or attorney general—can and must exercise their authority to oversee nonprofit entities.  The state elected officials should improve their provision of searchable, online records of charities’ registration and renewal documents, and should require the disclosure of information about the president and boards of the charities, etc.  Citizens should be aware of the important role that these statewide elected officials play in shining the sunlight, particularly on small Islamic charities that lack transparency.  Nationwide crackdowns on disreputable charities such as the “Operation False Charity” initiative should be replicated against Muslim organizations that purport to solicit donations for charity, but actually use them for Wahhabi and jihadi endeavors.

3.  The Canadian model.  The Canadian Revenue Agency has done a commendable job of carefully examining the charitable credentials of Islamic entities.  CRA has recently revoked the tax-exempt status of several of Canada’s most dubious Islamic charities including WAMY, the World Islamic Call Society, and IRFAN.  The IRS should take a page from Canada’s book and immediately strip IFANCA of its 501(c)3 status, for example.

2.  Sanctions model.  The authority to designate foreign charities as terrorist entities has been used somewhat appropriately by successive leaders at the State and Treasury Departments, but there are glaring examples of foreign philanthropic foundations that have not been designated due to diplomatic sensitivities.  The Saudi-based International Islamic Relief Organization has never been designated although its branches in the Philippines and Indonesia have been recognized by the U.S. as Al Qaeda affiliates.  The Muslim World League and the World Association of Muslim Youth are two other examples of “humanitarian” religious agencies that provide significant Saudi financial support for terrorism.  The U.S. has designated the Union of Good as a terrorist network, but it has not identified the member organizations of UoG (although Israel has).  We’re never going to confront the problem of Saudi terror funding through zakat unless we’re willing to name and shame the biggest Saudi perpetrators.

1.  The Bush/HLF model. The successful prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation for funding Hamas offers an aggressive law enforcement model that would require a renewed federal commitment.  Raids, seizures, and closures of suspect organizations and charities can take place under the executive order authorities of the President or ordinary criminal warrants.  The worst Islamic charities should be prosecuted under the material support provisions of the the Patriot Act.  We have to put the leaders of the worst offending Islamic charities into orange jumpsuits to set the example for other Muslims who wish to do the same.

Sadly, the Obama administration has tended to pursue a far more limited “settlement model,” in which the Department of Justice enters settlements and U.S. attorney agree to plea deals with jihadists’ attorneys.  Yes, some go-getter U.S. attorneys have continued to prosecute individual terror financiers and even a Hezbollah funding network.  But the big picture strategy of investigating, closing, and prosecuting major Islamic charities has been totally abandoned by the Obama administration.

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Holder stonewalls on HLF documents

June 22, 2012

Attorney General Eric Holder has once again refused to supply Congress with the same documents that were provided to the defendants in the Holy Land Foundation trial who were convicted of funding Hamas under questioning from Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) during a congressional hearing.

Yes, you read that correctly.  The “Holy Land Five” and their attorneys were given access to materials with information about their own crimes which the Justice Department will not even share with the members of Congress who represent the district where the Holy Land Foundation perpetrated its felonious terror funding operation.

Jihad Watch says that Holder “ducked” the question about whether he would provide the documents.  But that is being too charitable.  In video from the hearing (h/t Creeping Sharia), Holder says that DOJ could provide documents that are already in the public domain, which is another way of saying that they won’t provide the documents Rep. Gohmert requested.

The Department of Justice has done a terrible job policing Islamic charities since Mr. Holder and Pres. Obama came into office.  There is probably enough evidence of wrongdoing about the HLF’s co-conspirators in the case that if DOJ released the documents, it would increase the pressure from the public to prosecute HLF’s partners.

Note the passion and conviction of Rep. Gohmert, and the pompous indifference of Mr. Holder to the seriousness of the request:

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DOJ source implicates Islamic Relief

April 17, 2011

A high-ranking U.S. Department of Justice official has disclosed that money for Hamas “is going through groups like Islamic Relief.”  Islamic Relief USA is the largest Muslim charity in America, and enjoys a four-star charity rating from Charity Navigator… for the time being.

This news comes from a recent Pajamas Media exclusive by Patrick Poole (with much thanks to Shariah Finance Watch for circulating) about the Department of Justice’s decision to squash its investigation into terrorist financing by CAIR and related organizations due to political reasons. There’s a lot to digest in the article, and Money Jihad readers should peruse the whole scandalous thing, but today I’d like to drill down into one angle of the story.

Specifically, the Department of Justice official that served as the source for the article said:

We know that these Muslim leaders and groups are continuing to raise money for Hamas and other terrorist organizations. Ten years ago we shut down the Holy Land Foundation. It was the right thing to do. Then the money started going to KindHearts. We shut them down too. Now the money is going through groups like Islamic Relief and Viva Palestina.

We all know about the Holy Land Foundation, which was the largest Islamic charity in America before it was shut down for financing Hamas.  Readers will also recall KindHearts, the new bottle for HLF’s old wine, that the ACLU still goes to great lengths to defend.

We knew about Viva Palestina too, the relatively new but already infamous “charity.”

But Islamic Relief?  Although the name “Islamic Relief” could be applied to several organizations, it is unlikely that the official is referring to the Saudi-backed International Islamic Relief Organization, because that is normally just called IIRO.  (Besides, IIRO prefers funding Al Qaeda, not Hamas…)

The source could conceivably be referring to Islamic Relief Worldwide, a U.K.-based umbrella group which Money Jihad has reported to have colluded with Union of Good (pro-Hamas) charities before. 

But most likely, the DOJ source is referring to Islamic Relief USA, and that is because most U.S. Muslims are giving directly to Islamic Relief USA, not directly to Worldwide Islamic Relief or Islamic Relief UK (although they’re all related).  If true, it is newsbreaking that a high-ranking Justice official has “outed” Islamic Relief USA for the first time.

Even if the source is referring to Islamic Relief Worldwide, that is the first time a U.S. official has made such defamatory comments.

Since the Holy Land Foundation closed, Islamic Relief USA has been the largest Muslim charity and zakat collector in America.  (See our review of Islamic Relief USA’s finances here.)  If officials in the Justice Department are aware of Islamic Relief funds being funneled to Hamas, they have an obligation to move forward with an investigation and prosecution.

Too much money is involved to ignore this seemingly casual reference to Islamic Relief becoming the new channel for filling the coffers of Hamas.