- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 5, 2002

Switzerland's top law-enforcement officer said yesterday the al Qaeda network continues to have the funds and networks to finance new operations, despite an international campaign since September 11 to stop the terrorists' money flow.
Swiss Attorney General Valentin Roschacher said during a Washington visit yesterday he "absolutely agreed" with a new United Nations report that found the network of Osama bin Laden still had access to millions of dollars in ready cash.
"The information we see tells us that they are still here, they can still function, they still have enough money to carry out further attacks," said Mr. Roschacher, who was in Washington to sign a new accord increasing cooperation between Swiss and U.S. federal prosecutors in the global war on terrorism.
He said his conclusions were based on contacts with fellow top law-enforcement officials in Europe and on the fact that the money seized and frozen so far is much less than the estimated funds in the coffers of bin Laden's network before the September 2001 attack.
Bush administration officials have challenged the pessimistic tone of the U.N. report, maintaining that the U.S.-led crackdown on terrorist-financing networks has disrupted al Qaeda's operations.
To date, the U.S. government has designated 234 individuals and financial institutions with ties to known terrorist groups, with governments around the globe freezing about $112 million in bank accounts and other assets.
Switzerland, a global banking center with a long tradition of customer secrecy, has been a prime focus of investigators' concerns.
Swiss prosecutors are engaged in a lengthy investigation of the operations of financier Youssef Mustafa Nada and his Al Taqwa Management Organization, a financing agent with ties to Middle East clients that was identified by the Bush administration as suspected of having links to terrorist groups.
Mr. Roschacher refused to comment on the Al Taqwa investigation but said increased cooperation with U.S. officials has been critical in persuading Swiss judicial authorities to continue an asset freeze on the company as the investigation proceeds.
Altogether, about $16.2 million in Swiss bank accounts remains frozen as a direct result of the terrorism-financing probe, but Mr. Roschacher said the indications are that Switzerland did not serve as a "major player" in bin Laden's financing network.
Swiss prosecutors are still looking into a five-hour stay by al Qaeda terrorist Mohamed Atta in the Zurich airport just weeks before the September 11 attacks. Atta was considered the ringleader of the 19 hijackers.
Mr. Roschacher said the agreement signed yesterday with Attorney General John Ashcroft involves no new laws or regulations, but will beef up coordination and information sharing between Swiss and U.S. investigators looking into the September 11 attacks.

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