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Beginning in 1995, evidence begins to appear in the media suggesting that a Saudi charity named the Muwafaq Foundation has ties to radical militants. The foundation is run by a Saudi multimillionaire named Yassin al-Qadi.
In 1995, media reports claim that Muwafaq is being used to fund mujaheddin fighters in Bosnia (see 1991-1995).
Also in 1995, Pakistani police raid the foundation’s Pakistan branch in the wake of the arrest of WTC bomber Ramzi Yousef (see February 7, 1995). The head of the branch is held for several months, and then the branch is closed down. (Jackson, Cohen, and Manor 10/29/2001)
A secret CIA report in January 1996 says that Muwafaq is has ties to the Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya militant group and helps fund mujaheddin fighting in Bosnia and at least one training camp in Afghanistan (see January 1996).
In February 1996, bin Laden says in an interview that he supports the Muwafaq branch in Zagreb, Croatia (which is close to the fighting in neighboring Bosnia). (Pallister 10/16/2001)
A senior US official will later claim that in 1998, the National Commercial Bank, one of the largest banks in Saudi Arabia, ran an audit and determined that the Muwafaq Foundation gave $3 million to al-Qaeda. Both al-Qadi and the bank later claim that the audit never existed. Al-Qadi asserts he has no ties to any terrorist group. (Jackson, Cohen, and Manor 10/29/2001) In 2003, former counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will elaborate on this allegation, saying to a Senate committee, “Al-Qadi was the head of Muwafaq, a Saudi ‘relief organization’ that reportedly transferred at least $3 million, on behalf of Khalid bin Mahfouz, to Osama bin Laden and assisted al-Qaeda fighters in Bosnia.” (US Congress 10/22/2003) (Note that bin Mahfouz, a Saudi billionaire, denies that he ever had any sort of tie to bin Laden or al-Qaeda and has not been officially charged of such ties anywhere.) (Bin Mahfouz Info 11/22/2005)
Al-Qadi will claim that he shut down Muwafaq in 1996, but it is referred to in UN and German charity documents as doing work in Sudan and Bosnia through 1998. (Pallister 10/16/2001; BBC 10/20/2001)
Shortly after 9/11, the US Treasury Department will claim that Muwafaq funded Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK)/Al-Kifah (the predecessor of al-Qaeda), al-Qaeda, Hamas, and Abu Sayyaf (a Philippines militant group with ties to al-Qaeda), and other militant Islamic groups. (Ehrenfeld 6/17/2005)
However, despite all of these alleged connections, and the fact that the US will officially label al-Qadi a terrorism financier shortly after 9/11 (see October 12, 2001), the Muwafaq Foundation has never been officially declared a terrorist supporting entity. An October 2001 New York Times article will say that the reason, “administration officials said, was the inability of United States officials to locate the charity or determine whether it is still in operation.” But the same article will also quote a news editor, who calls Muwafaq’s board of directors “the creme de la creme of Saudi society.” (Gerth and Miller 10/13/2001)
More than 600 relatives of victims of the 9/11 attacks file a 15-count, $1 trillion lawsuit against various parties they accuse of financing al-Qaeda and Afghanistan’s former Taliban regime. The number of plaintiffs will quickly increase to 2,500 after the suit is widely publicized. Up to 10,000 were eligible to join this suit. The lawsuit does not allege that Saudi defendants directly participated in the 9/11 attacks, or approved them. Instead, it is alleged they helped fund and sustain al-Qaeda, which enabled the attacks to occur. (Schmidt 8/16/2002; Missing 9/13/2002) Defendants named include:
The Saudi Binladin Group, the conglomerate owned by the bin Laden family. (CNN 8/15/2002)
The National Commercial Bank, one of the largest banks in Saudi Arabia. (Kellman 8/15/2002)
The government of Sudan, for letting bin Laden live in that country until 1996. (Schmidt 8/16/2002)
The World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY). (Schmidt 8/16/2002)
The SAAR Foundation. (Schmidt 8/16/2002)
Al-Rajhi Banking & Investment Corp., which the plaintiffs contend is the primary bank for a number of charities that funnel money to terrorists. (This bank will later be dismissed from the suit (see November 14, 2003-September 28, 2005).) (Schmidt 8/16/2002)
The Benevolence International Foundation. (Schmidt 8/16/2002)
The International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO) and its parent organization, the Muslim World League (MWL). The suit claims that the IIRO gave more than $60 million to the Taliban. (Schmidt 8/16/2002)
Khalid bin Mahfouz, one-time prominent investor in the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) who had to pay a $225 million fine following the collapse of that bank. It is claimed he later operated a bank that funneled millions of dollars to charities controlled by al-Qaeda. (Mahfouz denies supporting terrorism and has filed a motion to dismiss the complaint.) (Schmidt 8/16/2002)
Mohammed al Faisal al Saud, a Saudi prince. (His name will later be dismissed from the suit because of diplomatic immunity (see November 14, 2003-September 28, 2005).) (Schmidt 8/16/2002)
Saudi Defense Minister Prince Sultan. (His name will later be dismissed from the suit because of diplomatic immunity (see November 14, 2003-September 28, 2005).) (Schmidt 8/16/2002)
Prince Turki al-Faisal, former chief of Saudi intelligence. (His name will later be dismissed from the suit because of diplomatic immunity (see November 14, 2003-September 28, 2005).) (Schmidt 8/16/2002) “The attorneys and investigators were able to obtain, through French intelligence, the translation of a secretly recorded meeting between representatives of bin Laden and three Saudi princes in which they sought to pay him hush money to keep him from attacking their enterprises in Saudi Arabia.” (CNN 8/15/2002) The plaintiffs also accuse the US government of failing to pursue such institutions thoroughly enough because of lucrative oil interests. (News 8/15/2002) Ron Motley, the lead lawyer in the suit, says the case is being aided by intelligence services from France and four other foreign governments, but no help has come from the Justice Department. (Gordon 8/16/2002) The plaintiffs acknowledge the chance of ever winning any money is slim, but hope the lawsuit will help bring to light the role of Saudi Arabia in the 9/11 attacks. (News 8/15/2002) A number of rich Saudis respond by threatening to withdraw hundreds of billions of dollars in US investments if the lawsuit goes forward (see August 20, 2002). More defendants will be added to the suit later in the year (see November 22, 2002). (English 8/20/2002)
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