- WASHINGTON (UPI) -- The Federal
Bureau of Investigation has discovered a list of the top financial backers
of al Qaida during a raid of a Muslim charity in Sarajevo, according to
court documents obtained by United Press International.
- The reference to the list is the first public indication
that U.S. authorities have specific information as to the identities of
the financiers of Osama bin Laden's terror network, but it is unclear what,
if any, action has been taken against the persons named in the document.
- The handwritten list -- referred to within al Qaida as
"The Golden Chain" -- details 20 wealthy donors to al Qaida followed
by the specific recipient of the funding. Osama bin Laden's name appears
next to seven of the entries, including at least one donation made by the
"bin Laden brothers," according to the court document.
- The bin Laden family controls a huge conglomerate of
corporate interests ranging from real estate to heavy construction and
is considered one of the wealthiest and most prestigious families in Saudi
Arabia. The family claims to have disowned Osama bin Laden in the early
1990s when he changed his focus from supporting rebels in Afghanistan against
its communist government and Soviet backers to worldwide campaign against
the United States and Israel. The U.S. government has repeatedly stated
that the bin Laden family has assisted in the efforts to contain and destroy
the al Qaida network and the family itself denies supporting Osama's terror
- But the discovery of this document in Sarajevo calls
into question whether al Qaida has received support from one of Osama's
scores of wealthy brothers.
- The revelation that the United States has such a list
-- which would be an invaluable tool for tracking and eventually staunching
the flow of money to the terror organization -- came in a sealed proffer
made by federal prosecutors in the case against Enaam M. Arnaout, the director
of Benevolence International Foundation. Arnaout had been charged with
multiple counts of racketeering, conspiracy, money laundering and aiding
al Qaida before pleading guilty Monday to a single racketeering count.
- The proffer was ordered unsealed Tuesday after the plea
agreement was reached, although several of the exhibits remain sealed unless
they are introduced as evidence at Arnaout's sentencing.
- In an ultimately unsuccessful effort to introduce hearsay
evidence against Arnaout, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of
Illinois filed a 51-page document detailing what prosecutors considered
to be clear evidence closely linking BIF to al Qaida. Judge Suzanne Conlon
ultimately rejected the argument that the much of the evidence should be
admitted at trial.
- In March 2002, authorities in Bosnia raided the offices
of the BIF in Sarajevo and Zenica at the behest of the U.S. authorities.
There have been longstanding concerns in the European and U.S. intelligence
services that several charities that operated in Bosnia during and after
that country's civil war were being used as a cover for al Qaida activities.
- The raids discovered information linking BIF to al Qaida,
according to Arnaout's indictment, law enforcement officials and intelligence
documents prepared by Bosnian intelligence agencies and also supplied to
United Press International.
- "The BIF had in its Sarajevo office a computer file
labeled 'Tareekh Osama,' or 'Osama's History,'" the filing says.
- "BIF possessed in a file a handwritten draft list
of the people referred to within al Qaida as the 'Golden Chain,' wealthy
donors to mujahedin efforts, Ex. 5," the filing continues. "At
the top of the list is a Koranic verse stating: 'And spend for god's cause.'
The list contains 20 names, and after each name is a parenthetical, likely
indicating the person who received the money from the specified donor.
'Usama' appears after seven of the listings, including the listing 'Bin
Laden Brothers.' 'Baterji', LBI and BIF's founder, appears after six of
the listings. Only three other persons are listed in the parentheses."
- "Baterji" appears to refer to Adel Batterjee,
a wealthy businessman from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, who founded BIF and its
predecessor organization Lajnatt Al-Birr Al-Islamiah, or LBI.
- A class action lawsuit filed by families of victims of
the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on New York and Washington have named
Batterjee as a defendant, but he has not been located.
- One lawyer associated with Arnaout's case said that despite
Batterjee being a fairly famous businessman, he had repeatedly failed to
- "This guy is considered a famous figure in Jeddah,"
the lawyer said. "For such a captain of industry, I find it strange
that in a year of trying I haven't been able to find him once."
- The proffer document filed by the government also expands
on charges made in the indictment against Arnaout that he supplied equipment
and money to Islamic military groups in Chechnya and the Sudan with donations
to BIF intended for humanitarian purposes. These charges were dropped as
part of the plea agreement.
- The proffer also alleges that BIF employees repeatedly
traveled on behalf of al Qaida on fundraising trips to develop donors for
al Qaida. In one such incident described by the government, a BIF employee
traveled to Saudi Arabia to meet with Batterjee, but was detained by intelligence
services. After his release, the proffer claims, the BIF employee immediately
flew to Sudan and met with bin Laden.
- Through his attorney, Arnaout continues to deny ever
having participated in al Qaida activities, although prosecutors contend
they will prove the connection when Arnaout is sentenced. No hearing on
sentencing has been set.
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