- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 10, 2002

The head of a U.S.-based Muslim charity was indicted yesterday on fraud, racketeering and money laundering charges in the diversion of donations to support terrorist organizations, including Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.
Attorney General John Ashcroft said Enaam M. Arnaout, 40, executive director of the Benevolence International Foundation (BIF), was named in a seven-count indictment handed up in U.S. District Court in Chicago. Arnaout was accused of using the tax-exempt charitable organization as a racketeering enterprise to support international terrorists.
Mr. Ashcroft, in Chicago to announce the indictment, said BIF with offices in Illinois, Pakistan, Bosnia-Herzegovina and elsewhere fraudulently diverted for more than a decade charitable donations from Muslim-Americans, U.S. corporations and other donors to support terrorism overseas.
"There is no moral distinction between those who carry out terrorist attacks and those who knowingly finance terrorist attacks," Mr. Ashcroft said.
Arnaout, a Syrian-born naturalized U.S. citizen, was named on one count of conspiracy to engage in a racketeering enterprise, one count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, two counts of money laundering, two counts of mail fraud and one count of wire fraud. If convicted, he faces 90 years in prison without the possibility of parole.
He has been in custody since April 30 on a criminal complaint accusing him of lying about whether BIF was linked to terrorism.
The indictment said Arnaout defrauded contributors by falsely claiming that BIF used donated funds solely for humanitarian relief when they were used to support al Qaeda and terrorist groups.
In addition, it said, Arnaout commingled charitable donations intended for humanitarian purposes with contributions intended to support armed violence and that he concealed his ties to al Qaeda and bin Laden from the government, the public and "a considerable number" of donors.
The indictment describes an archive of incriminating documents recovered in BIF's Bosnian offices in March 2002 documents that purportedly link Arnaout directly to bin Laden and al Qaeda.
It said the documents included notes of a 1988 meeting in Afghanistan at which the al Qaeda terrorist network was formed, notes of the original oath of allegiance pledged by al Qaeda members, personnel files of mujahideen fighters trained in Afghanistan under bin Laden, and a list of wealthy Saudi Arabian sponsors with references to bin Laden and BIF founder Adel Batterjee.
The indictment said other documents showed that Arnaout served as director of communications at a mujahideen camp in Afghanistan under bin Laden, and was involved in acquiring hundreds of rockets, mortars and bombs on behalf of Afghan terrorists.
Mr. Ashcroft said the Justice Department would sort through the evidence in the BIF case and separate legitimate donors from those who broke the law.
"To those who would exploit the generosity of others, break the law and provide financing to terrorists and other groups engaged in violence, my message is this: We will find the sources of terrorist blood money, we will shut down these sources and we will ensure that both terrorists and their financiers meet the same, swift, certain justice of the United States of America," he said.
The indictment said BIF was founded in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan in 1987, with one of its stated goals to provide support for the mujahideen in Afghanistan, and was incorporated in the United States in the early 1990s to increase donations and reduce scrutiny by authorities. It said BIF received status as a tax-exempt charitable organization in March 1993 at about the time Arnaout took over as director.
The indictment said Arnaout provided assistance to the mujahideen under the command of bin Laden, and that al Qaeda relied on various organizations, including charities, to transfer money and provide cover for traveling al Qaeda members and associates.
It also said Arnaout and others in Bosnia-Herzegovina attempted to erase documents and photographs concerning bin Laden and al Qaeda, a chart of an organization involved in military activity headed by bin Laden, and notes summarizing meetings during which al Qaeda was formed.
Other erased documents included the personnel files of the mujahideen trained in Afghanistan, a list of wealthy sponsors from Saudi Arabia, and documents showing Arnaout's involvement in the acquisition and distribution of hundreds of rockets, mortars, bombs and dynamite.


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