US sees 'terror funds collection' in Gulf
Manama, February 27, 2008
Millions of dollars are being raised in the Gulf to finance terrorism, a senior US treasury official has alleged.
Iran is the chief culprit, but funds are being raised throughout the region, often through otherwise genuine charity funds, said Stuart Levey, under-secretary of the treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.
He called for more to be done to block millions allegedly being chanelled to Al Qaeda, Hizbollah and other organisations.
A recent decision by Bahrain's Ahli United Bank to suspend business with Iran was evidence that terrorism funding exists in all Gulf countries, said Levey.
In October last year, the US accused Iranian banks Saderat and Bank Melli, which together own two-thirds of the Bahrain-based Future Bank, of funding terrorism and supporting Iran's nuclear programme.
Future Bank was established in Bahrain in 2005, as a joint venture with Ahli United Bank.
'Terrorist organisations and Al Qaeda raise money in the Gulf by going to individual donors and through charities,' Levey told a press conference at the Sheraton Hotel.
'Iran as a matter of state policy funds terrorism organisations and does so in great quantities. We believe they send between BD37.8 million to BD75.6m ($100-200 million) a year to Hizbollah,' he said.
'The (Iranian) banks also send a significant amount of money to Hamas. There is historical evidence of charities being corrupted to send money to terrorist organisations and this is a substantial problem,' Levey added.
The official denied that the US was trying to put pressure on Iranian banks as part of efforts to disrupt its nuclear development programme.
He was in Bahrain for a one-day visit to build up support to combat terrorist financing, that will also see him travel to Qatar and the UAE.
Levey held meetings with Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, Justice and Islamic Affairs Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ali Al Khalifa, Social Development Minister Dr Fatima Al Balooshi and Central Bank of Bahrain governor Rasheed Al Maraj.
He is responsible for US government's efforts to disrupt and dismantle the financial networks that support terrorist organisations and has overseen the introduction of financial measures against proliferators of weapons of mass destruction.
Levey has also brought in financial strategies aimed at countering threats to US national security and protecting the international financial markets from abuse.
The Gulf Daily News reported last week the results of a Jurdab Charity Fund survey which showed that a third of charities in Bahrain do not carry out annual audits of their accounts.
'The issue of charities is a difficult one which all countries are grappling with,' said Levey.
'One of the victims in that equation are the people who are innocent donors. Their real will is to give their money to people in need and not to have it diverted to extremists.'
'Unfortunately, too often that situation occurs,' he pointed out.
Levey said putting pressure on the financial networks of terrorists would not alone solve the problem but insisted it was part of the solution.
'We need to use their financial networks to learn more about them and in the long run we need to win the ideological war,' he said. 'It is not acceptable to use terrorism to pursue a political goal,' he opined.-TradeArabia News Service