by John J. Loftus
By Atty. John J. Loftus
3560 Coquina Key Drive SE
St. Petersburg, FL 33705
About the author: As a former federal prosecutor, John Loftus had an insider’s knowledge of high level intelligence operations, including obstruction of Congressional investigations. Loftus resigned from the Justice Department in 1981 to expose how the intelligence community had recruited Nazi war criminals and then concealed the files from Congressional subpoena. After appearing on an Emmy Award winning segment of 60 Minutes, Loftus has spent the next two decades writing histories of intelligence cover-ups, and serving as an unpaid lawyer helping other whistleblowers inside US intelligence.
Boston Herald, December 11, 2001
A powerful Washington, D.C., law firm with unusually close ties to the White House has earned hefty fees representing controversial Saudi billionaires as well as a Texas-based Islamic charity fingered last week as a terrorist front.
The influential law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld has represented three wealthy Saudi businessmen – Khalid bin Mahfouz, Mohammed Hussein Al-Amoudi and Salah Idris – who have been scrutinized by U.S. authorities for possible involvement in financing Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network.
In addition, Akin, Gump currently represents the largest Islamic charity in the United States, Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development in Richmond, Texas.
Holy Land’s assets were frozen by the Treasury Department last week as government investigators probe its ties to Hamas, the militant Palestinian group blamed for suicide attacks against Israelis. Partners at Akin, Gump include one of President Bush’s closest Texas friends, James C. Langdon, and George R. Salem, a Bush fund-raiser who chaired his 2000 campaign’s outreach to Arab-Americans.
In addition to the royal family, the firm’s Saudi clients have included bin Mahfouz, who hired Akin, Gump when he was indicted in the BCCI banking scandal in the early 1990s. In 1999, the Saudi’s placed bin Mahfouz under house arrest after reportedly discovering that the bank he controlled, National Commercial Bank in Saudi Arabia, funneled millions to charities believed to be serving as bin Laden fronts.
A bin Mahfouz business partner, Al-Amoudi, was also represented by Akin, Gump. When it was reported in 1999 that U.S. authorities were also investigating Al-Amoudi’s Capitol Trust Bank, Akin, Gump released a statement on behalf of their client denying any connections to terrorism. One year earlier, the firm had co-sponsored an investment conference in Ethiopia with Al-Amoudi.
Akin, Gump partner and Bush fund-raiser Salem led the legal team that defended Idris, a banking protege of bin Mahfouz and the owner of El-Shifa, the Sudanese pharmaceutical plant destroyed by U.S. cruise missiles in August 1998.
…Speaking of Akin, Gump partner Kress’ office in the White House, Lewis added: “That’s not appropriate and frankly it’s potentially troublesome because there is a real possibility of a conflict of interest. Basically you have a partner for Akin, Gump . . . inside the hen house.”
But another longtime Washington political observer, Vincent Cannistraro, the former chief of counter-intelligence at the Central Intelligence Agency, said the political influence a firm like Akin, Gump has is precisely why clients like the Saudis hire them.
“These are cozy political relationships . . . If you have a problem in Washington, there are only a few firms to go to and Akin, Gump is one of them,” Cannistraro said.
Cannistraro pointed out that Idris hired Akin, Gump during the Clinton presidency, when Clinton confidante Vernon Jordan was a partner at the firm. “He hired them because Vernon Jordan had influence . . . that’s a normal political exercise where you are buying influence,” he said.
\Akin, Gump is not the only politically wired Washington business cashing in on the Saudi connection.
Burson-Marsteller, a major D.C. public relations firm, registered with the U.S. government as a foreign agent for the Saudi embassy within weeks of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
Boston Herald , December 10, 2001
Two billionaire Saudi families scrutinized by authorities for possible financial ties to Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network continue to engage in major oil deals with leading U.S. corporations.
The bin Mahfouz and Al-Amoudi clans, who control three private Saudi Arabian oil companies, are partners with U. S. firms in a series of ambitious oil development and pipeline projects in central and south Asia, records show.
Working through their companies – Delta Oil, Nimir Petroleum and Corral Petroleum – the Saudi families have formed international consortiums with U. S. oil giants Texaco, Unocal, Amerada Hess and Frontera Resources.
These business relationships persist despite evidence that members of the two Saudi families – headed by patriarchs Khalid bin Mahfouz and Mohammed Hussein Al-Amoudi – have had ties to Islamic charities and companies linked financially to bin Laden’s al-Qaeda organization. So far, bin Mahfouz and Al-Amoudi, who have denied any involvement with bin Laden, have been left untouched by the U. S. Treasury Department, which has frozen the assets of 150 individuals, companies and charities suspected of financing terrorism.
According to a May 1999 report by the U. S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia, Delta Oil was created by 50 prominent Saudi investors in the early 1990s.
The prime force behind Delta Oil appears to be Mohammed Hussein Al-Amoudi, who is based in Ethiopia and oversees a vast network of companies involved in construction, mining, banking and oil.
Al-Amoudi also owns Corral Petroleum.
The Al-Amoudis’ business interests, meanwhile, are enmeshed with the bin Mahfouz family, which owns the third privately held Saudi oil company, Nimir Petroleum.
Nimir was established by the Mahfouz family in Bermuda in 1991, according to the U. S. Embassy report.
The closeness of the two clans is underlined by their joint oil venture, Delta-Nimir, as well as by their partnership in the Saudi firm The Marei Bin Mahfouz & Ahmed Al Amoudi Group of Companies & Factories.
Meanwhile, information continues to circulate in intelligence circles in the United States and Europe suggesting wealthy Saudi businessmen have provided financial support to bin Laden.
Much of it revolves around a 1999 audit conducted by the Saudi government that reportedly discovered that the bin Mahfouz family’s National Commercial Bank had transferred at least $ 3 million to charitable organizations believed to be fronts for bin Laden’s terror network.
U. S. and British authorities also reportedly looked at Al-Amoudi’s Capitol Trust Bank in London and New York for similar activities.
After the audit, bin Mahfouz was placed under house arrest in Taif, Saudi Arabia, and Al-Amoudi reportedly replaced him as head of National Commercial Bank.
Some of the Saudi money transferred from National Commercial Bank allegedly went to the Islamic charity Blessed Relief, whose board members included bin Mahfouz’s son, Abdul Rahman bin Mahfouz.
In October, the U. S. Treasury Department named Blessed Relief as a front organization providing funds to bin Laden.
“Saudi businessmen have been transferring millions of dollars to bin Laden through Blessed Relief,” the agency said.
In 1999, Al-Amoudi’s lawyers in Washington, Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer and Feld, issued a statement saying, “Al-Amoudi did not know bin Laden and never had any dealings with him” and that the businessman “was unalterably opposed to terrorism and had no knowledge of any money transfers by Saudi businesses to bin Laden.”
Despite officials’ suspicions, the bin Mahfouz and Al-Amoudi oil companies continue to profit from their working relationship with America’s own oil elite. For example:
— The Mahfouz family, through Nimir Petroleum, joined forces recently with Texaco to develop oil fields in Kazakhstan estimated to contain as many as 1.5 billion barrels of oil.
— The Al-Amoudi family, through Delta Oil, teamed up with Amerada Hess three years ago to develop oil fields in Azerbaijan. Delta-Hess is also part of a consortium hoping to build a $ 2.4 billion oil pipeline from Azerbaijan to Turkey.
— In the mid-1990s, Delta Oil formed a partnership with Unocal in a failed bid to build oil and gas pipelines from Turkmenistan to the Arabian Sea.
— In 1994, Delta-Nimir, a joint venture of the Al-Amoudi and bin Mahfouz families, joined with Unocal in a consortium to develop three oil fields in Azerbaijan. In 1996, Delta-Nimir and Unocal closed a second oil development deal in Azerbaijan.
(For more info about banking connections, go to bankersalmanac.com.)
Daily News (New York), November 10, 2001
U.S. officials allege that Yasin Al-Qadi, a wealthy Saudi businessman whose assets have been frozen by the Treasury Department, funneled money from National Commercial to Al Qaeda through a charity called Muwafaq Foundation.
Because of suspected terrorist links, the Treasury Department has seized assets and barred numerous banks and financial entities from doing business in the United States.
A banking official who asked not to be identified said new anti-terror legislation is flawed because it gives the government great leeway in determining which business gets blacklisted.
The official said political considerations could favor institutions associated with crucial allies like Saudi Arabia, paving the way for terrorist funds to continue to flow through U.S. banks.
White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan acknowledged that the Treasury consults the President before freezing assets or barring trade with specific people or organizations.
Two Saudi government agencies bought 50% of National Commercial in 1999. The other half is owned by several shareholders, including members of the Mahfouz family, which gave up its majority ownership to the government.
New York Times , October 15, 2001
The 11th floor aerie from which Yasin Abdullah al-Qadi shepherds his investments is a seemingly endless stretch of plush white carpet barely interrupted by a white leather couch and a spotless desk. The Red Sea dominates the view, sparkling azure in the bright October sunshine.
But the placid surroundings were shattered on Friday when Mr. Qadi found himself on a new list of 39 individuals and groups accused by the United States Treasury Department of financing Osama bin Laden and his organization, Al Qaeda. The citation about Mr. Qadi read in part: “He heads the Saudi-based Muwafaq Foundation. Muwafaq is an Al Qaeda front that receives funding from wealthy Saudi businessmen.” It goes on to say that the business community has been transferring millions of dollars to Mr. bin Laden through the charity.
It is an accusation that Mr. Qadi says he finds absurd, not least because the foundation shut down five years ago.
“Nothing has been given to bin Laden whatsoever, this is nonsense,” Mr. Qadi, a bearded, 45-year-old businessman, said in an interview.
Accusations against pillars of the Jidda community like Mr. Qadi and the foundation — its six-member board included prominent figures like two members of the bin Mahfouz banking clan.
Boston Herald , October 14, 2001
Three banks allegedly used by Osama bin Laden to distribute money to his global terrorism network have well-established ties to a prince in Saudi Arabia’s royal family, several billionaire Saudi bankers, and the governments of Kuwait and Dubai.
One of the banks, Al-Shamal Islamic Bank in the Sudan, was controlled directly by Osama bin Laden, according to a 1996 U.S. State Department report. A second bank, Faisal Islamic Bank, appears to have a relative of Osama bin Laden on its board of directors, the bank’s records show.
– Despite repeated denials of any connection to their notorious relative, members of the family of Osama bin Laden continue to have close business relationships with another wealthy Saudi banking clan, the bin Mahfouz family, which is suspected of shipping millions of dollars to the exiled terrorist as recently as three years ago.
The bin Mahfouz family was placed in the spotlight Friday when the Bush administration moved to freeze the assets of 39 more individuals and groups it believes are supporting terrorism.
One of the names on the list, Saudi businessman Yasin al-Qadi, is involved with members of the bin Mahfouz family in a Muslim charity, Blessed Relief, which the Treasury Department says has steered millions of dollars to bin Laden.
Sunday Times (London) , October 14, 2001,
Further investigations into the Bin Laden money network have linked a dynasty of Saudi billionaires with close ties to their country’s royal family to a London charity accused of being connected with Bin Laden.
The International Development Foundation (IDF) -which is now under investigation by Britain’s Charity Commission -was founded by members of the Bin Mahfouz family, one of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent clans.
It has emerged, too, that a director of the IDF is also on the board of an Arab investment company that was refuelling the American warship USS Cole last year when it was attacked in Yemen on the orders of Bin Laden. The company was cleared of any involvement.
The alleged links between the Bin Mahfouz family, which has an estimated fortune of Pounds 2.5 billion, and the Bin Laden money network will be a severe embarrassment to the Saudi rulers.
The IDF charity, based in Curzon Street, central London, was named publicly last week in a French parliamentary report as having “points of contact” with Bin Laden’s organisation.
The report also stated that a subsidiary of Sedco, a Bin Mahfouz family company based in Saudi Arabia, was “suspected by the US of having made donations to Osama Bin Laden”.
According to records filed with the Charity Commission last year, the directors of the IDF include Abdelelah, Saleh, Mohammed and Ahmed Bin Mahfouz. Their listed address is the Sedco headquarters in Saudi Arabia. The Bin Mahfouz family is one of the most successful trading clans in the Middle East.
The allegations against the IDF and the Sedco subsidiary, which are all strongly denied by the family, come as Saudi Arabia is confronted by growing criticism that its companies and charities may have provided, knowingly or unwittingly, funding for Bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network.
An intelligence report published as an annex to a French parliamentary report last week named more than 40 organisations registered in Britain with possible links to Bin Laden, including the IDF.
Khalid Bin Mahfouz, the former president of the National Commercial Bank in Saudi Arabia, is believed to be under investigation in Saudi Arabia after allegations that he channelled money to Bin Laden.
Other members of the family involved in Sedco say they are no longer connected to Khalid Bin Mahfouz and do not in any way support Bin Laden. “The Bin Mahfouzes are a very, very established family and Osama Bin Laden is anathema to them,” said one source close to the family.
New York Times , October 13, 2001, JEFF GERTH and JUDITH MILLER
Yasin al-Qadi is among the prominent Saudis who those in need of charity or shrewd business advice could turn to. But the United States government now says that Mr. Qadi and many other well-connected Saudi citizens have transferred millions of dollars to Osama bin Laden through charities and trusts like the Muwafaq Foundation supposedly established to feed the hungry, house the poor and alleviate suffering.
In describing Muwafaq, which means “Blessed Relief” in Arabic, as a front for Mr. bin Laden’s terror network, the Bush administration has put Saudi Arabia, one of its most important Middle East allies, in a delicate bind.
The Muwafaq Foundation has been administered by some of the kingdom’s leading families. Mr. Qadi, a businessman and investor, was cited yesterday on a list of those who support terrorism.
The foundation, however, was not mentioned. The reason, administration officials said, was the inability of United States officials to locate the charity or determine whether it is still in operation.
A statement accompanying the list yesterday said this about the foundation: “Muwafaq is an al-Qaeda front that receives funding from wealthy Saudi businessmen. Blessed Relief is the English translation. Saudi businessmen have been transferring millions of dollars to bin Laden through Blessed Relief.”
In 1995, the trustees of the Muwafaq Foundation filed a libel suit in London against the newsletter Africa Confidential for linking the foundation to terrorist activities in Africa. The publication lost the lawsuit.
Court papers in that case, provided by Steven Emerson, a writer and commentator on terrorism, list the trustees as Mr. Qadi (under the spelling Yassin Quadi) and five others, including two members of the bin Mahfouz family.
“They are the creme de la creme of Saudi society,” said Patrick Smith, editor of Africa Confidential. The bin Mahfouz family controls the National Commercial Bank of Saudi Arabia, which is the kingdom’s largest bank and is the banker to the royal family. Sheik Khalid bin Mahfouz paid $225 million, including a $37 million fine, to escape possible charges in connection with the 1991 collapse of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International. … Mr. Qadi — under the spelling Kadi — is a major investor and director of Global Diamond Resources, a diamond exploration company based in San Diego, Calif. Public records show that he is involved in real estate, consulting, chemical and banking companies in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Kazakhstan and Pakistan.
The chairman of Global Diamond, Johann de Villiers, said of Mr. Qadi, “The guy I know is a very nice guy.” He said he understood that Mr. Qadi had significant investments in the American stock market as well as some investments in Malaysia.
Mr. de Villiers traced Mr. Qadi’s investment in his company to a meeting in London in December 1998. The meeting included an investment banker and some other Middle Eastern investors, including a senior member of the bin Laden family, who had invested in the diamond company one year earlier.
The bin Laden family controls one of the most powerful business groups in Saudi Arabia and its members have publicly disowned Osama bin Laden.
Mr. de Villiers said it was the assurances of the bin Laden family that gave him the confidence he needed to accept Mr. Qadi’s $3 million investment in his small company.
“I relied on the representations of the bin Laden family,” Mr. de Villiers said. “They vouched for him.”
Mr. de Villiers said all calls for Mr. Qadi would be directed to his lawyer in London, Mr. Carter-Ruck.
This is not the first time that Mr. Qadi has come to the attention of the United States government in connection with the financing of terrorist activities. He was identified as the major source of funds for a money-laundering scheme for the Palestinian group Hamas. The case occurred in June 1998, when the Justice Department froze the funds of a foundation near Chicago called the Quranic Literacy Institute and one of its important volunteers, Muhammad A. Salah, for funneling money to Hamas, which the State Department says is a foreign terrorist organization.
According to court documents, the money was ultimately traced back to Mr. Qadi.
The government said that in 1991, Mr. Qadi, whom it described as a Saudi businessman, transferred by wire some $820,000 from a Swiss bank account for investment purposes. The transaction was intended to conceal the source of the money, which was from Mr. Qadi. The government said some of the money was ultimately used by Mr. Salah to help purchase weapons and reorganize the Hamas leadership in the West Bank and Gaza.
The Ottawa Citizen , September 29, 2001
Two imprisoned men, separated by half a planet and what amounts to a royal fortune, may hold the key to unlocking the secret of how Osama bin Laden finances his global terrorist network. But both are staying stone silent.
Khalid al-Fawwaz is an otherwise undistinguished former Nairobi car importer who lived in a nondescript London apartment and ran an obscure war relief group called the Advice and Reformation Committee (ARC) in London. Now being held in Britain’s maximum-security Belmarsh prison, he faces criminal charges in the United States for abetting the 1998 terrorist bombings of embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed or wounded nearly 4,800 people.
Khalid bin Mahfouz is a controversial, Yemeni-born tycoon worth an estimated $2.5 billion U.S. He founded and ran the world’s largest private bank until 1999, when the Saudi royal family quietly arranged for a government investment fund to buy out his 50-per-cent stake in the National Commercial Bank, then forced his dismissal. After a financial audit of the bank’s $21-billion assets, Mr. Mahfouz was confined to a military hospital in Taef, Saudi Arabia. Some $2 billion has been reported missing. One of his sisters is married to Mr. bin Laden.
U.S. intelligence services want to know if some of that missing money went to phoney charities secretly funneling money to Mr. bin Laden’s al-Qaeda organization, including:
– The London-based Advice and Reformation Committee, run by Mr. Fawwaz and founded by Mr. bin Laden;
– An Africa aid group called Blessed Relief, whose directors included Mr. Mahfouz’s son;
– A Kenya branch of Help Africa People, run by several men later convicted or indicted for the U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania;
– The International Islamic Relief Organization, linked to terrorist bomb plots in the Philippines and India;
– The Kenya branch of war and famine relief group Mercy International, where key evidence used to convict the embassy bombers was found;
– A host of other Islamic aid groups working from Afghanistan to Kosovo, some of which were named by U.S. President George W. Bush earlier this week.
U.S. efforts to follow the bin Laden money trail also include searching the worldwide assets of dozens of banks, businesses and ventures in the secretive Mahfouz commercial empire.
It is no easy task. The Mahfouz family still owns a 30-per-cent stake in the National Commercial Bank, and controls worldwide assets through a private holding company called Al Murjan. One of its assets is Globalstar LP, which has licences for satellite broadcasts in eight Middle Eastern countries.
Some of the Mahfouz wealth is interlocked with another Saudi sheik and billionaire, Mohammed Hussein Al-Amoudi, who has since been appointed to run the private bank Mr. Mahfouz founded. Its clients include much of the Saudi royal family.
The Mahfouz/Al-Amoudi joint ventures include the port facilities in Yemen where the USS Cole was bombed by Islamic militants while it refueled, an alleged chemical weapons plant in Kenya that former U.S. president Bill Clinton ordered destroyed by missiles, and a Washington-based private company called WorldSpace, which provides satellite-based technology and programming to rural Africa and Asia.
Mr. Mahfouz is no stranger to missing money — or controversy. He is a former director of the infamous BCCI international bank, which triggered a $12-billion U.S. bankruptcy scandal in the early 1990s.
Indicted in the U.S. for a $300-million bank fraud and facing civil claims exceeding $10 billion, he arranged a $225-million settlement with prosecutors and agreed to a permanent prohibition on owning banks in the U.S.
Mr. Mahfouz was also embroiled in a citizenship-for-sale scheme in Ireland, in which foreign millionaires were secretly courted to invest in Irish enterprises in exchange for coveted Irish passports and lucrative tax writeoffs. Mr. Mahfouz purchased 11 passports for Saudi and Pakistani nationals, but failed to make the promised investments.
Is there a connection between Mr. bin Laden and the two far-flung prisoners?
U.S. court records — especially evidence entered by British detectives who raided Mr. Fawwaz’s apartment and the ARC office on London’s Beethoven Street in 1998 — leave little doubt that Mr. Fawwaz worked for Mr. bin Laden and personally knew those who were later convicted of the African embassy bombings.
Seized computer hard drives revealed fiercely anti-American “holy war” edicts from Mr. bin Laden, to be relayed to European Muslims through the ARC “charity.” A seized copy of the ARC founding documents bore Mr. bin Laden’s signature.
Wiretap evidence, satellite-phone and fax records confirmed that calls were made to or from the now-convicted African embassy bombers and Mr. bin Laden’s military lieutenant in Pakistan, Mohammed Atef (who is charged with Mr. bin Laden in the African embassy bombings). Seized bank records showed that Mr. Fawwaz held the signing authority for a Barclay’s account for ARC.
The U.S. court records, and testimony from former bin Laden insiders, also indicate that Mr. Fawwaz purchased mobile phone technology that Mr. bin Laden or his aides used to make 140 calls to London and the Kenya bomb group from Afghanistan.
Seizures in Nairobi turned up phone bills for Mercy International in Mr. Fawwaz’s name, and calls to that office from Mr. bin Laden’s satellite phone. Much of the evidence used to convict four of the embassy bomb plotters in a later U.S. trial was found at the charity’s Kenya office.
A former Mercy International staffer in Ireland, Hamid Aich, had earlier shared a Vancouver suburb apartment for three years with Abdelmajid Dahoumane, the accused accomplice of convicted millennium bomb plotter Ahmed Ressam. (Mr. Ressam, part of an Algerian bin Laden cell based in Montreal, has testified that he and Mr. Dahoumane concocted bomb ingredients to blow up the Los Angeles airport at a Vancouver motel in December, 1999.)
Mr. Ressam was caught at the U.S. border with the explosives in his car trunk, and convicted after a U.S. trial this year. Mr. Dahoumane fled Canada, facing criminal warrants here and in the U.S. He is believed to be in Afghanistan. Mr. Aich was arrested in Ireland, but released before police realized his connection to the Canadian-based Algerians. His whereabouts is unknown.
Mr. Fawwaz has denied any involvement in the terrorist bombings linked to Mr. bin Laden, and is fighting extradition from Britain to the United States. The evidence being used to support his transfer to the U.S. has not been tested at trial.
The U.S. has not filed any indictments against Mr. Mahfouz, and there is no public evidence linking him to any of the terrorist attacks against U.S. targets. However, the Saudi royal family restricted his travel last year after U.S. officials shared financial evidence gleaned from investigations following the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and subsequent terrorist attacks against the USS Cole, U.S. military barracks near Riyadh, and the African embassies, a failed 1996 plot to bomb 12 airliners over the Pacific, and a failed plot to bomb U.S. consular offices in India.
American officials had earlier convinced governments in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, and Britain to close bank accounts they had linked to Mr. bin Laden. U.S. press reports have disclosed that some wealthy Persian Gulf businessmen also were being “tithed” — or bribed — millions to fund Islamic charities that acted as fronts for Mr. bin Laden. One Associated Press report estimated the donations at $50 million, and another reported that even Saudi pension funds were being routed to the phony charities.
According to Indian police, a Bangladeshi man caught with explosives destined for U.S. consulates in India confessed to being a former worker for the International Islamic Relief Organization, and said the IIRO president had personally attended a meeting to plan the bomb attacks.
The Philippines chapter of the IIRO was formerly headed by Mr. bin Laden’s brother-in-law, and was fingered as a front for Mr. bin Laden by a man later convicted in the 1993 World Trade Center bombings. Mr. Mahfouz’s son was on the board of Blessed Relief in Sudan, a group reportedly linked to the 1995 attempted assassination of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in Ethiopia.
A Lebanese-born U.S. citizen based in Kenya, later convicted of aiding the African embassy bombings, testified that he began working for the bin Laden network after being recruited for the Islamic relief agency Al Kifa by al-Qaeda military boss Mohammed Atef.
He later served as a senior business aide to Mr. bin Laden in Sudan, then through Kenya-based groups that combined legitimate aid work and covert al-Qaeda business, such as preparing false passports, masking travel by bomb plotters, and exchanging money and reports with the bin Laden group in Afghanistan. Some of the convicted or at-large indicted bombers had previously worked for Help Africa People.
Mr. Mahfouz was a major investor with sheik Al-Amoudi in the $100-million El Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Kenya, which was destroyed by U.S. missiles weeks after the embassies were bombed. The Clinton administration claimed the CIA had earlier detected bomb ingredients in the soil nearby. Yet subsequent lab tests and court actions leave little doubt the El Shifa plant was producing only human and veterinary drugs.
The nominal owner, now based in London and a long-time accountant to Mr. Mahfouz, later sued the U.S. government, which quietly settled the case and unfroze his assets in the United States.
The U.S. counter-strike against the El Shifa plant was almost certainly aimed at an innocent target. A simultaneous U.S. cruise missile barrage aimed at Mr. bin Laden himself in his Afghan hideout missed its intended target.
Those retaliatory strikes enraged many in the Muslim world, and may have prompted covert donations to the bin Laden cause from some of the Persian Gulf’s wealthy businessmen. They also drew the wrath of military governments in countries like Yemen, Sudan and Ethiopia, where the Mahfouz/Al-Amoudi group often gets preferential projects.
One example is the multibillion-dollar project to modernize the shipping facilities in the Yemeni capital of Aden, completed a year before the USS Cole was hit there by a suicide barge. The lead investor and builder was the Mahfouz/Al-Amoudi Group, through their companies Yeminvest and Yemen Holdings Ltd.
Mr. Mahfouz and Mr. bin Laden were both born in Yemen, and are revered by many Yemenis. A U.S. probe into the terrorist attack there has been stymied by the Yemeni government, which openly supports a “holy war” against the U.S., and has vowed to provide sanctuary for jihad militants.