by P. Devlin Buckley
September 5, 2008
The American Monitor
Law firms representing victims of the 9/11 attacks in an ongoing legal dispute with wealthy Saudis suspected of financing al-Qaeda have recently turned their attention to two individuals with unique ties to the U.S. government.
Lawyers for victims of the attacks, as well as insurance companies of property owners in New York, have filed a motion of discovery in federal district court in Manhattan targeting the Saudi-owned National Commercial Bank (NCB) and two of its former executives, Khalid bin Mahfouz and Yassin al-Qadi.
Both Mahfouz and al-Qadi have a murky history that includes alleged ties to the CIA, the White House, the Bush family, al-Qaeda, and organized crime on a global scale.
The discovery motion, if granted, would advance the case by requiring both sides to disclose and exchange all available pertinent facts regarding the defendants. The motion comes just days after a circuit court ruled members of the Saudi government are immune from terrorism lawsuits in the United States, a setback in the plaintiffs’ case against Saudis suspected of financing al-Qaeda in the years leading up to 9/11. There are some defendants, however, the ruling does not protect, including Khalid bin Mahfouz, Yassin al-Qadi, and the NCB.
Government documents, expert testimony, and media reports dating back several years suggest Mahfouz and al-Qadi have raised millions of dollars for al-Qaeda and other militant groups. Evidence indicates some of the defendants’ activities were sanctioned by the U.S. government.
During the late 1980s Khalid bin Mahfouz was the director of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), a CIA-linked criminal enterprise that became the focus of an international scandal during the early 1990s. Mahfouz paid a $225 million settlement for his involvement at the bank, avoiding criminal charges.
Among other illegal activities, BCCI was involved in laundering drug money, supporting terrorists, purchasing illegal arms, selling nuclear technologies, and bribing political and law enforcement officials—all while serving
as front for the CIA.
The CIA used the bank as a major conduit for supporting clandestine operations. As journalist and author Craig Unger described it, “the bank created a template with which to finance covert operations all over the world for an international network of terror.”
The CIA utilized BCCI to funnel millions of dollars to anti-Soviet Islamic fighters in Afghanistan, helping to give rise to the network now known as al-Qaeda. Prior to its collapse in 1991, BCCI was considered to be al-Qaeda’s primary source of funding. Osama bin Laden himself reportedly held accounts at the bank.
According to an October 2001 French intelligence report obtained by the Washington Post, “The [current] financial network of bin Laden, as well as his network of investments, is similar to the network put in place in the 1980s by BCCI for its fraudulent operations, often with the same people (former directors and cadres of the bank and its affiliates, arms merchants, oil merchants, Saudi investors).”
BCCI maintained ties to an oil firm that included current president George W. Bush on its board of directors.
In 1986, the same year Khalid bin Mahfouz became BCCI’s primary investor, Bush joined the board at a small Texas-based oil company, Harken Energy. Soon after, Harken established several lucrative relationships with figures associated with the BCCI network. The connections between Harken and BCCI attracted allegations of corruption and political influence peddling.
Khalid bin Mahfouz has also done business with long-time Bush family friend and business partner James R. Bath.
As early as 1976, Bath was reportedly serving as a representative for Mahfouz in the United States. According to Unger, Bath was the sole director of Skyway Aircraft Leasing, a company in the Cayman Islands owned by Mahfouz. “Through Skyway,” Unger reports, “Bath brokered about $150 million worth of private aircraft deals to major stockholders in BCCI.”
Aircrafts owned by a company in Florida with a similar name as Skyway have recently been implicated in an international cocaine trafficking ring with ties to the CIA. It is unknown if the companies are related.
Khalid bin Mahfouz has also been associated with longtime Bush family friend and GOP political heavyweight James Baker III.
Mahfouz and Baker were reportedly two of the major investors behind the development of the Texas Commerce Tower, now known as the JP Morgan Chase Tower. When James Bath reportedly purchased a Houston mansion for Mahfouz, the payment was made through James Baker III’s law firm, Baker Botts.
Baker Botts is representing some of the Saudis in their case against the victims of the 9/11 attacks.
Shortly after the collapse of BCCI in 1991, Khalid bin Mahfouz took over the Saudi-based National Commercial Bank (NCB), the largest bank in the Middle East. The NCB remains the subject of an ongoing legal dispute with victims of the 9/11 attacks.
The NCB was recently the target of a discovery motion filed in federal district court in Manhattan by the plaintiffs’ lawyers. The motion singles out Khalid bin Mahfouz and another former NCB executive, Yassin al-Qadi, for their alleged involvement in raising funds for al-Qaeda.
Al-Qadi, like Mahfouz, has several ties to elite figures in Washington. He is known to have escorted U.S. officials during their visits to Saudi Arabia and he claims to have become friends with vice president Dick Cheney at a fundraiser organized by the Saudi-based Dallah Group.
The Saudi conglomerate, also known as the Dallah al-Baraka Group, was the first defendant named in the 9/11 families’ original lawsuit. The company is suspected of paying a ‘ghost’ salary to a Saudi spy that provided assistance to two of the 9/11 hijackers.
There have been allegations Yassin al-Qadi was protected from terrorism investigations because of his renowned status.
In the late 1990s, the FBI’s Counterterrorism Task Force in Chicago was building a major criminal case against Yassin al-Qadi, but according to agents that worked the case, higher-ups at the FBI blocked the probe and shut it down for political reasons. This occurred after funds used to orchestrate the 1998 African embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania had reportedly been traced back to the Saudi suspect.
FBI Special Agent Robert Wright, who spearheaded the investigation in Chicago, attempted to blow the whistle on the FBI following the 9/11 attacks. After going public with his concerns, Wright was gagged by the Justice Department and prevented from releasing a manuscript detailing the FBI’s failures in the years leading up to 9/11.
According to Agent Wright, the government could have prevented 9/11 had suspected terrorists not been protected from prosecution by the FBI. Much of Wright’s investigation centered on Yassin al-Qadi and his alleged involvement with Saudi-funded charities and businesses suspected of laundering money to terrorists.
“There are very significant potential conflicts of interests in both the Clinton and Bush Administrations with the country primarily responsible for funding these charities, mainly Saudi Arabia,” a representative for Wright said at a 2002 press conference. “That may help explain why the federal government, why the FBI agents were nervous about getting into this stuff, when the rich and powerful of Washington, DC, are in fact doing business with some of these entities.”
At the time of the Chicago FBI probe, Yassin al-Qadi was the owner of a high-tech U.S. software firm with numerous government contracts. The Massachusetts-based company, Ptech, stirred controversy following the 9/11 attacks when several investors and employees were publicly linked to money laundering and terrorism financing.
Ptech maintained a security clearance with the military and held contracts with the Air Force, the Army, the Navy, the FAA, the IRS, the White House and several other U.S. government agencies, including the FBI.
Many reports suggest the company was tied to the CIA.
The same financial nexus established by the CIA to fund the Afghan jihad during the 1980s includes several individuals and organizations with ties to Ptech. The network shifted its support to Bosnia in the early 1990s when the U.S. was providing covert support to militants in the same region.
Yassin al-Qadi, Ptech’s owner, allegedly provided support to Muslim fighters in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Kosovo at times when the U.S. was supporting militant groups in the same areas.
Former Ptech employees Muhammed Mubayyid and Suheil Laher worked at Care International, a Boston-based charity considered to be the successor organization of the Al-Kifah Refugee Center in Brooklyn, New York. Al-Kifah, also known as Maktab al-Kidhamat (MAK), served as a recruiting post for the CIA during the anti-Soviet Afghan jihad of the 1980s. Al-Kifah and Care also allegedly supported Islamic militants involved in the Bosnian civil war in an effort backed by the United States.
Former Ptech manager and convicted felon Aldurahman Alamoudi, who helped gather political support for the U.S.-backed war in Bosnia, met on several occasions with senior White House officials.
In 2004, Alamoudi was sentenced to 23 years in prison after pleading guilty to charges related to tax violations and illegal dealings with Libya. The Treasury Department claims he maintained a close relationship with al-Qaeda and raised money for al-Qaeda in the United States.
Prior to his conviction, not only was Alamoudi working at Ptech, he was meeting with President Bush and lobbying alongside Republican power broker Grover Norquist. In 2000, prior to the presidential election, Alamoudi was invited to meet with George W. Bush in Texas; and three days after the 9/11 attacks, Alamoudi was invited to a prayer service with the president.
Alamoudi also met with senior officials of the Clinton Administration. Alamoudi headed the American Task Force for Bosnia, which lobbied the Clinton Administration to provide military support to Muslims fighters in Bosnia.
The Muwafaq Foundation, a now defunct charity founded by Khalid bin Mahfouz and Yassin al-Qadi, has similarly been accused of supporting Muslim fighters in Bosnia. Muwafaq is at the center of the ongoing legal battle between victims of the 9/11 attacks and Saudis suspected of bankrolling al-Qaeda.
According to the 2003 congressional testimony of former counterterrorism advisor Richard Clarke, the Muwafaq Foundation reportedly assisted al-Qaeda militants in Bosnia and transferred at least $3 million to Osama bin Laden on behalf of Khalid bin Mahfouz. The Treasury Department has described Muwafaq as an “al-Qaeda front that receives funding from wealthy Saudi businessmen.”
A reported audit of the National Commercial Bank in 1998 allegedly uncovered $3 million funneled by the Muwafaq Foundation to Osama bin Laden. Mahfouz and al-Qadi insist the audit never took place and deny having any connections to terrorism.
Lawyers representing 9/11 victims in Manhattan have filed a discovery motion against NCB that singles out Muwafaq, as well as its founders Mahfouz and al-Qadi. The plaintiffs allege the two Saudis, while working for NCB in the early 1990s, established the Muwafaq Foundation and used it to launder money to terrorists.
The lawyers presented new evidence to support the discovery motion. This includes a German intelligence report alleging NCB laundered money to al-Qaeda and a French diplomatic cable summarizing the alleged involvement of Mahfouz in transfers from NCB to a charity that forwarded the funds to Osama bin Laden. The plaintiffs’
lawyers also point to U.S. and Swiss documents linking al-Qadi to al-Qaeda and other terrorist activities.
The 9/11 court case and the defendants’ ties in the U.S. have gone largely unreported in the mainstream press. The Philadelphia Inquirer is one of the only media outlets to devote coverage to the ongoing legal battle.