Saudis gave Al Qaida $500 million and never stopped giving

Sunday, January 5, 2003

Saudi Arabia has transferred $500 million to Al Qaida over the past decade, according to a report prepared for the United Nations.

The report asserts that the Saudi funds represent the most important source of financing for Al Qaida and that Riyad, pressured by leading officials, has failed to stop the flow of money to Al Qaida in wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 suicide attacks on New York and Washington.

The 34-page report was written by a French investigator at the request of Colombia, which occupies the presidency of the Security Council.

Jean-Charles Brisard, the investigator, was an expert on Al Qaida in France's intelligence service. Over the last year, he has become a consultant whose clients include the relatives of victims of the Al Qaida suicide missions in New York and Washington.

"One must question the real ability and willingness of the kingdom to exercise any control over the use of religious money in and outside of the country," the report said.

A key obstacle to the Saudi pledge to stop financing to Al Qaida is the lack of a definition of terrorism and legitimate charities. The report said prominent Saudi charities, supported by leading officials and companies, continue to finance groups deemed as terrorist by the European Union and the United States, but regarded as legitimate by the kingdom.

Much of the money received by Al Qaida and its founder, Osama Bin Laden, are relayed as part of the Islamic tenet on charity. Under their religion, Muslims are required to donate 10 percent of their funds to helping other co-religionists.

Such donations, have become "the most important source of financial support for the Al Qaida network,'' the report said.

The report contrasts with assertions by official spokesmen in Riyad and Washington that Saudi Arabia has made strides toward the halt in Al Qaida financing. In November, the kingdom announced a new regulation system of Islamic charities.

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