The Benevolence International Foundation (Benevolence International Fund in Canada, Bosanska Idealna Futura in Bosnia) (BIF) was a purported nonprofit charitable trust based in Saudi Arabia. It was a front for al-Qaeda and is now banned worldwide by the United Nations Security Council Committee 1267. It had already been banned by the US Department of the Treasury.
It was founded by Adel bin Abdul-Jalil Batterjee (Template:Lang-ar) of Jeddah, who is now personally embargoed by the UN and by the US. After pleading guilty in U.S. Federal Court, BIF's chief executive officer Enaam Arnaout began serving a ten-year sentence for racketeering in 2003.
BIF's offices had been in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina (Sarajevo and Zenica), Canada, China, Croatia, Georgia (Duisi and Tbilisi), the Netherlands, Pakistan (Islamabad, Peshawar), the Palestinian Territories, Russia (Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia, Moscow), Saudi Arabia (Riyadh and Jeddah), Sudan, Tajikistan, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Yemen.
The group stated that it was "helping those afflicted by wars. BIF first provides short-term relief such as emergency food distribution, and then moves on to long term projects providing education and self-sufficiency to the children, widowed, refugees, injured and staff of vital governmental institutions."
The list of 20 main financiers of al-Qaeda, composed by Osama bin Laden in 1988 and dubbed by him the Golden Chain, was found in the Bosnia office of Benevolence International Foundation when it was raided in March 2002.
History[edit | edit source]
Benevolence International Corporation is said to have been started in 1988 by Mohammed Jamal Khalifa of Jeddah, the brother in law of Osama bin Laden. Back then, it was known as an "import-export" company. It is said that this group was a front for the Abu Sayyaf group.
Meanwhile, another group known as the Islamic Benevolence Committee was founded in both Jeddah and Peshawar, Pakistan by Batterjee. The group was a "charity" that openly supported fighters against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
In 1992, the Benevolence International Corporation in the Philippines folded visible operations, while the Islamic Benevolence Committee was renamed to Benevolence International Foundation. The Filipino group would become a group set up to attack U.S. interests in the Philippines. Khalid Sheik Mohammed is said to have led the rest of the group.
The group was moved to the United States, with Enaam Arnaout as the director. The organization first set shop in Plantation, Florida. Arnaout married an American woman and obtained citizenship to the United States. In 1993, the organization's headquarters moved to Chicago, Illinois.
On June 15, 1994, US Ambassador Melissa Wells visited the BIF headquarters on an envoy from President Bill Clinton, and met with Ma'moun Muhammad al-Hasan Bilou and "praised BIF and its efforts to provide humanitarian relief".
In late 1994, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa travelled to the United States to meet with Mohamed Loay Bayazid, the president of Benevolence at the time.
Prosecution[edit | edit source]
Khalifa and Bayazid were arrested in Mountain View, California (near San Francisco) in December 1994. The FBI received communications from the Philippines that Khalifa was funding Operation Bojinka, a terrorist plot that was foiled on January 6, 1995. However, Khalifa was deported to Jordan by the INS in May 1995. The Jordanian court acquitted Khalifa, and, until his death, lived in Saudi Arabia. Bayazid was also let go. His whereabouts are unknown.
The U.S. Government alleged that the group sent money and communications to Osama bin Laden, purchased rockets, mortars, rifles, bayonets, dynamite, and other bombs for Al-Qaeda members in Chechnya, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, and redirecting funds meant for charity purposes to purposes related to terrorism. The U.S. government also alleged that the group was aiding the travel of terrorists, including Khalifa, Bayazid, and al-Qaeda co-founder Mamdouh Salim, and was coordinating the escape of BIF members from Bosnian police.
During a sentencing hearing in August 2003, U.S. District Judge Suzanne Conlon told prosecutors they had “failed to connect the dots” and said there was no evidence that Arnaout “identified with or supported” terrorism.
These allegations were withdrawn as part of a February 2003 plea bargain in which Enaam Arnaout pleaded guilty to racketeering charges. The plea bargain allowed for him to provide information to prosecutors as long as charges that are related to Al-Qaeda are dropped. He publicly denies any link to the group.
References[edit | edit source]
- UN list of affiliates of al-Qaeda and the Taliban
- "Treasury designates Benevolence International Foundation and related entities as financiers of terrorism". US Department of the Treasury. 2002-11-19. http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/po3632.aspx. Retrieved 2012-06-19.
- "U.S. Treasury designates two individuals with ties to al Qaida, UBL former BIF leader and al-Qaida associate named under E.O. 13224". US Department of the Treasury. 2004-12-21. http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/js2164.aspx. Retrieved 19 June 2012-06-19.
- Matthew Levitt's Testimony before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology, and Homeland Security, 10 September 2003
- Fitzgerald, Patrick J. United States of America v. Enaam M. Arnaout, "Governments Evidentiary Proffer Supporting the Admissibility of Co-Conspirator Statements", before Hon. Suzanne B. Conlon
- Few convictions on terror since 9/11: Most arrested not linked to extremists, Washington Post, June 12, 2005
- DATA & GRAPHICS: Population Of The Communications Management Units, Margot Williams and Alyson Hurt, NPR, 3-3-11, retrieved 2011 03 04 from npr.org
- Hawala. An Informal Payment System and Its Use to Finance Terrorism by Sebastian R. Müller (Dec. 2006), ISBN: ISBN 3-86550-656-9, ISBN 978-3-86550-656-6
- Indictment of Arnaout in 2002, archive at the US Justice Department