- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 18, 2003

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The federal government is accusing a Virginia-based network of charities and businesses of bankrolling groups the government considers to be terror organizations and of laundering millions of dollars.

An affidavit and supporting court papers from a Customs Service special agent were used to justify warrants for searches of 11 residences and businesses in Northern Virginia and a chicken processing plant in Georgia.

The agent, David Kane, contends that targets of the requested searches moved huge sums of money through multilayered financial transactions and to accounts in banks on the Isle of Man, a tax haven in the English Channel. From there, Mr. Kane surmised, the money must have been moved, but the island’s tight bank secrecy laws have thwarted investigators.

“The evidence to date demonstrates that multiple millions of dollars have been moved between the SAFA Charities, between the for-profit members of the SAFA Group and the SAFA Charities, and between the SAFA Charities and foreign entities represented to be charitable in nature,” Mr. Kane wrote in documents made public late Friday.

He said he had probable cause to believe the reason that SAFA Charities existed was to hide the distribution of money to terror groups, principally Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas, the Islamic Resistance movement.

The affidavit was filed in March 2002.

Prominent in it was former University of South Florida professor Sami Al-Arian, accused by the government of being the North American head of Islamic Jihad. He was indicted this year with seven others on charges they set up a terrorist cell at the university and funneled support to Islamic Jihad.

Mr. Kane described one series of transactions that had occurred in fall 2001, which he said was typical.

Based on records of First Union Bank, he said, the Sterling Charitable Gift Fund in Northern Virginia deposited on Oct. 26, 2001, a check for $250,000 received from Mar-Jac Poultry of Gainesville, Ga. Sterling transferred $100,000, from the same account to SAAR Foundation, an affiliated Saudi group, on Nov. 2, 2001. Sterling transferred another $150,000 by wire to SAAR Foundation on Nov. 29, 2001, Mr. Kane wrote.

This, Mr. Kane said, was “an example of an intra-SAFA Group money transfer and apparent ‘pass through’ activity that I believe is conducted for the purpose of layering financial transactions and confusing any ostensible investigation.”

Mr. Kane said the SAFA Charities reported $54 million in grants and allocations for 1996-2000. Of that, $26 million was transferred to entities in the Isle of Man, and $20 million remained within the SAFA Charities. The balance, approximately $7.7, went to unidentified recipients.

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