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N.J. firm backed terrorists linked to Hamas, al Qaeda
Question of the Day
A now-defunct New Jersey firm that offered investments to wealthy Muslims, including housing developments in suburban Maryland, raised millions of dollars for what law-enforcement authorities describe as a “who’s who” of international terrorists and Islamic extremists.
BMI Inc., founded by Soliman S. Biheiri, an Egyptian convicted of immigration violations, reported more than $25 million in projected revenues and leases as early as 1992 in a business that solicited real-estate investments and offered leasing services for Muslims in what authorities said was a scheme based in Virginia and Maryland to raise cash for terrorists.
According to court documents, U.S. intelligence officials and federal law-enforcement authorities, BMI’s investors included the following:
Mousa Mohammad Abu Marzook, the self-proclaimed political leader of Hamas who was detained by U.S. authorities in 1995 on suspicion of terrorist activities and expelled to Jordan, where he was deported to Syria for ties to the terrorist organization.
An investor in an Oxon Hill real-estate development known as Barnaby Knolls, Marzook — who lived in Falls Church — was named a “Special Designated Global Terrorist” by President Bush in August. In a sentencing declaration,Immigration and Customs Enforcement senior agent David Kane said Marzook was accused by Israel of murder, attempted murder, manslaughter and conspiracy in bombings that killed 14 persons.
Barnaby Knolls was financed through a BMI subsidiary, BMI Real Estate Development Inc., and involved the construction of 57 homes, beginning in January 1991. No one living in the subdivision has been identified as being involved in the scheme.
Yasin Qadi, a Saudi multimillionaire involved in banking, chemicals, diamonds and real estate, who was designated by the Treasury Department in 2002 as a terrorist and is suspected of diverting millions of dollars to Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network.
Authorities said Qadi led the Saudi-based Muwafaq (Blessed Relief) Foundation, which the Treasury Department said was used as a front for al Qaeda to launder millions of dollars to the terrorist organization.
Yousef Nada, an Egyptian national and resident of Switzerland, who was designated a terrorist financier by the United Nations in November 2001. U.S. law-enforcement authorities suspected that Nada provided significant funding to al Qaeda.
Nada also was a founder of Al-Taqwa Bank, which authorities think is at the center of a financial network that helped fund global terrorism. The Treasury Department designated the bank a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” shortly after the September 11 attacks.
Biheiri, who lived in Falls Church, was sentenced in January to a year in prison on immigration violations, the first person convicted in a federal financial terrorism investigation that centered on more than 100 Islamic charitable organizations, educational and cultural groups, for-profit businesses and investment firms in Northern Virginia.
A recently released sentencing declaration by Mr. Kane said Biheiri’s activities in this country were aimed at supporting Hamas, which is pursuing a Palestinian state, and were tied to a “criminal conspiracy” to provide “material support to terrorist organizations.”
A majority of the Virginia-based charities and other businesses, according to the declaration, operated out of a Herndon storefront and collectively were known to investigators as the “Safa Group.” In the declaration, Mr. Kane cited evidence showing “the transfer of large amounts of funds” from the Safa organizations to Hamas and other terrorist groups through front organizations, beginning in the early 1990s.
By Mark Davis
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