US, Saudis seek to block 4 charity offices’ assets
WASHINGTON: US and Saudi Arabian officials on Thursday said they were asking the United Nations to add four branches of an Islamic charity to its list of groups whose assets are to be blocked as part of the financial war on Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda network.
“Make no mistake; this administration will continue to take aggressive actions, both domestically and internationally, to ensure charities are not being abused by terrorists,” US Treasury Secretary John Snow said in a prepared statement.
At a press conference at the Treasury Department, officials said local branches of the Saudi charity Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation in Indonesia, Kenya, Tanzania and Pakistan were being added to the US blocking list, requiring US banks to check their records and freeze any assets they find belonging to the offices. Calling for the branches to be added to the UN list is meant to trigger a similar search globally.
The Saudi government ordered Al-Haramain, one of the nation’s largest charities, to close all of its overseas branch offices in 2003, but “continued monitoring by the United States and Saudi Arabia” showed the offices or their officials either continued to operate or had made plans to get around the move.
“We have clear information that Al Qaeda was using these branches to raise money, to move money, to move people and to move material. In one way or another, they were co-opted,” Juan Zarate, the Treasury Department’s assistant secretary for terrorism and violent crime, told reporters.
Saudi Arabia’s efforts to cut off funds from the Arab kingdom to US-designated terrorists have been criticized by US officials in the past as half-hearted. However, recent militant bombings in Saudi Arabia have led to increased cooperation, according to US officials.
“Where we once shared information across oceans, we now share it across a desk. The effectiveness of our cooperative efforts is unprecedented and has led to today’s actions,” said Adel Al-Jubeir, foreign affairs adviser to the Saudi crown prince.
In March 2002, the United States added Al-Haramain offices in Somalia and Bosnia-Herzegovina to its terror blacklist. —Reuters