- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 26, 2001

Nations from Switzerland to the United Arab Emirates are taking steps to choke off money flows to the al Qaeda network on the heels of President Bush's announcement Monday to freeze U.S. bank accounts for 27 organizations with links to wanted terrorist Osama bin Laden.

"On the reaction to the financial controls the President announced yesterday, we are seeing an international reaction that is positive," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters yesterday.

* Indeed, U.S. officials say they have been informed that Saudi financial authorities have taken action on key accounts in the country's state-owned National Commercial Bank and the Faisal Islamic Bank, run by former Saudi intelligence chief Turki Faisal. Last week, U.S. officials had presented these accounts to the Saudis in meetings with their foreign minister.

* In the United Arab Emirates, a UAE official said the government ministries are investigating accounts in the Dubai Islamic Bank.

"We are cooperating securitywise, intelligencewise, financialwise in all levels in the international fight against terrorism," the official said.

* In Europe, the Swiss have formed a task force to crack down on terrorism.

"The Swiss federal police have created a task force with over 100 agents to look for financial and other links to bin Laden's network and terrorist organizations," said Manuel Sager, a spokesman for the Swiss Embassy in Washington.

Mr. Sager also said the Swiss had an ongoing investigation into the Taqwa Management Organization, a trading company with offshore holdings in Malta and the Bahamas, believed to have links to bin Laden.

This past weekend, Swiss money-laundering authorities gave Taqwa 20 days to provide a detailed list of its commercial interests.

* In Bulgaria, Sofia's Bureau for Financial Investigation has begun a probe into bank accounts believed to be connected to the al Qaeda network, according a senior official at the Bulgarian Embassy in Washington. This official said, "As soon we have proof, we will freeze the accounts."

* In Washington, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi announced plans to investigate financial ties in Japan's banking system to the bin Laden organization.

On Monday, Mr. Bush said he was putting "banks and financial institutions around the world on notice "we will work with their governments, ask them to freeze or block terrorist's ability to access funds in foreign accounts."

One way the White House has been working to break up bin Laden's financial networks is working through multilateral organizations. For example, on Sept. 20, European Union heads of state agreed to strengthen existing agreements on money laundering and freezing assets connected with terrorism.

Yesterday, the finance ministers from the Group of Eight major industrialized nations passed a resolution to toughen financial regulations against suspected terrorists. The ministers discussed a possible resolution in the United Nations that would toughen the penalties to financial institutions that hold terrorist accounts.

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