Hamas invested in U.S. real estate with Gulf money

Monday, April 5, 2004

Hamas has invested up to $25 million in housing projects throughout the United States.

U.S. officials said the investment was believed to have stemmed from Saudi and other Gulf Arab sources as part of an effort to finance Hamas insurgency operations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. They said the funding pointed to the close links between Hamas and Gulf Arab supporters.

[In Nablus, Israeli special operations forces arrested 26 senior Hamas insurgents, Middle East Newsline reported. Israeli officials said this comprised the Hamas military command in the northern West Bank city.]

Hamas investments in the United States began in the early 1990s through Mussa Abu Marzouk, a member of Hamas's political bureau, officials said. The investments were handled mostly through a firm founded by an Egyptian national sentenced in January 2004 to one year in prison for relaying millions of dollars to Al Qaida as well as other Islamic insurgency groups.

In February, a U.S. federal court in Rhode Island ruled that Hamas must pay $116 million to the parents and children of an Israeli couple killed in a Palestinian attack in 1996. On Thursday, the same court ruled that the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority must also each pay similar damages to the plaintiffs.

FBI officials have provided evidence of Hamas investments during the investigation of Soliman Biheiri, alleged to have been a key conduit of Saudi and Gulf funding to Al Qaida and Hamas. The investigation of Biheiri, sentenced to one year in jail, was conducted by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and included numerous Saudi-sponsored groups in the Washington D.C. area.

Hamas invested in the construction of hundreds of apartment units, many of them in the suburban Washington area, officials said. In Prince George County, Md., Hamas was said to have financed the construction of 57 homes in a project called Oxon Hill, which contains numerous Muslim immigrants.

Abu Marzouk, expelled by the United States in the late 1990s, was a principal investor in Oxon Hill. He was also cited as a principal of a Biheiri company, BMI, a subsidiary of which financed a development called Barnaby Knolls in Maryland.

The investigation into Hamas investments stemmed from a federal raid of 14 Saudi-aligned businesses in Virginia in 2002 meant to uncover the ties between BMI and a Herndon, Va. corporation, Sana-Bell Inc. Sana-Bell was alleged to have laundered millions of dollars for the Saudi-sponsored International Islamic Relief Organization, believed connected to Hamas and the Egyptian Gamiat Islamiya.

A declaration of sentencing of Biheiri released by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE] detailed the Hamas investments. In the declaration, ICE senior agent David Kane said BMI employed investment schemes to launder large amounts of money to and from Hamas organizations and businesses. Kane said these organizations included 100 bogus charities, most of which operated in Virginia.

The declaration also traced the flow of money to Hamas for investment in the United States. It said money was flowing from Hamas charities through banks in Virginia and New Jersey to the port of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. The ICE said a significant amount of revenues that stemmed from Hamas investments were employed "in furtherance of Hamas terrorist operations."

The key investor in BMI was identified as a Saudi national, Yasin Qadi. Qadi has been placed on a U.S. Treasury Department list of financiers of Al Qaida.

Copyright Š 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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