Saudis suspend international transfer of funds from charities

Friday, August 22, 2003

ABU DHABI Saudi Arabia has suspended the transfer of Islamic charities's funds outside the country and has approved legislation for an oversight body on the charities in a move to prevent the financing of Al Qaida and related groups.

So far, officials said, Saudi authorities have suspended the relaying of funds by Islamic charities to institutions outside the kingdom. The ban affects more than 240 Saudi charities, Middle East Newsline reported.

"This is where the trouble starts as there is no record of the movement of funds," Motashar Al Murshed, a financial consultant, told the Jedda-based Arab News. "The thrust of the anti-money laundering legislation is to track money transfers and prevent their diversion into suspect accounts."

The Saudi Shura Council, which reviews domestic legislation, has approved the establishment of the new Supreme Saudi Relief and Charity Foundation. The foundation has been slated to regulate the raising and spending of funds by licensed charities in the kingdom.

Hamoud Al Badr, secretary-general of the consultative council, said the new body would also audit the accounts of charities. Saudi charities have been the biggest funders of international Islamic groups that operate in Asia, Europe and the United States.

Saudi officials said the new body marked one of several recommendations proposed by the United States in an effort to prevent financing to Al Qaida and related groups. The officials said the kingdom has already agreed to restrict Saudi fund-raising.

The government has also established a committee to monitor financial transactions in an effort to prevent funding to Al Qaida. The panel was established by Interior Minister Prince Nayeff and Finance Minister Ibrahim Al Assaf.

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