U.S.: Half of Hamas funding comes the from Gulf

Sunday, September 28, 2003

The United States has concluded that about half of the estimated $50 million budget for Hamas comes from Gulf Cooperation Council states.

U.S. officials told a House subcommittee that most of Hamas' foreign sources of funding stem from Saudi Arabia. They said Hamas has raised more than $50 million a year, including funds obtained from criminal activities in the United States.

Treasury Department general counsel David Aufhauser, who heads the U.S. effort to end financing to Islamic insurgency groups, testified on Wednesday to the House Financial Services subcommittee. The focus of the hearing was the campaign by Washington to end funding to Hamas, Middle East Newsline reported.

"Some sources estimate that as much as half of Hamas' income is derived from money raised in the Persian Gulf, including the kingdom of Saudi Arabia," Aufhauser said, "notwithstanding a May 2002 decree by Crown Prince Abdullah that ceased official Saudi support for the group."

The United States has encountered difficulties in persuading countries to seize Hamas assets and halt funding to the Palestinian group, Aufhauser said. He said the effort has not been well received in GCC states that fund Hamas's political activities.

"No economic sanctions program exists at the UN for Hamas," Aufhauser said. "Countries in Europe and the Persian Gulf two principal areas that supply funds to Hamas have been slow to support action against the entire organization, if at all. The rest of the world, particularly Europe until recently and countries in the Persian Gulf view the political charitable wing of Hamas differently from its so called military wing."

About $24.7 million in assets linked to Hamas has been frozen, Aufhauser said. Sixteen of the 321 individuals and groups cited on the U.S. list of suspected terrorist financiers over the last two years have been linked to Hamas.

FBI assistant director for counterterrorism John Pistole told the House subcommittee that Hamas' annual budget is believed to be at least $50 million. Pistole, who based his estimate on U.S. intelligence reports, said Hamas has responded to the shutdown of U.S.-based charities by entering criminal activities in the United States. He said information on Hamas-related criminal activities in the United States helped foil four attacks planned in an unspecified country, believed to be Israel.

"Some of the suggested criminal activity include, but not limited to, drug trafficking, credit card fraud, counterfeit products, fraudulent documents, cigarette tax fraud and stolen infant formula," Pistole said.

Officials cited the European Union decision to classify the political wing of Hamas as a terrorist entity. But they said this did not guarantee that EU states would freeze the assets of Hamas-aligned charities. The EU, they said, has been concerned that the shutting down of these charities would damage social services in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

"Even as we try to shut off the flow of funds to Hamas, it is important to remember that a significant portion of this money has gone to provide extensive basic services to the Palestinian population services the Palestinian Authority does not yet have the resources to step in and provide," Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs Anthony Wayne said. "This is a concern that the U.S. shares and is working with our Quartet partners and others to address."

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