The International Herald Tribune has reported on accusations of terrorist financing against the Islamic holding company known as the Dar al-Maal al-Islami Trust (DMI) founded in 1981 by Saudi Prince Mohamed al Faisal, described in the report as a “pioneer of Islamic finance” and “a pillar of the Saudi businesses establishment.” The report describes DMI as:
Technically a trust, DMI functions as a holding company, with ownership stakes in Islamic banks in Pakistan and Egypt and Africa, investment banks in Bahrain and the Faisal private bank in Geneva. It also manages $1.5 billion for largely Muslim clients, invested exclusively in businesses and funds that are in tune with Islamic law, like real estate and private equity. Since recording a loss in 2000, its fortunes have soared as capital has flowed to the region and the trust recorded a record profit of $52 million last year.
As the report describes, DMI is one of the defendants in a $1 trillion lawsuit brought by the families of the 911 victims:
In their complaint, lawyers for Sept. 11 relatives say that the early alliances formed by Mohamed with conservative political and religious figures in Sudan and Egypt, as well as the banking services DMI has provided to people and organizations who would be declared terrorists after Sept. 11, serve as proof that the prince and the trust have “conspired with Al Qaeda and the other defendants to carry out terrorist attacks.”
The report also notes that Prince al Faisal had ties with Muslim Brotherhood figures such as Hassan al-Turabi from Sudan, who was a supervisory director of the trust from 1982 to 1992, and global Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi, who was an early religious adviser to the trust until he left in 1994.
The article does not identify further ties between Al-Faisal and the Brotherhood including the business relationship between Muslim Brotherhood figure Youssef Nada, the head of the now defunct Al-Taqwa Bank. According to Al Jazeera interviews with Nada, sometime around 1977 he was invited back to Egypt by the government in connection with the cement business when he was also contacted by Prince Al-Faisal who wanted Mr. Nada as his Egyptian partner in opening a bank in Egypt. According to Mr. Nada, the law at that time required that 50% ownership be held by Egyptians and he became the second largest Egyptian shareholder after the Ministry of Awaqf. In a private interview, Nada also stated that “After the first meeting I presented my resignation and I never went to Egypt.” Nada was also reported to have been a shareholder in a second bank chaired by Al-Faisal—the Faisal Islamic Bank in Sudan. In addition, the DMI trust and Al Taqwa were registered at the same address in the Bahamas belonging to an attorney who represented the interests of both, although confidential sources report that the attorney, now deceased, denied any relationship between the two entities. A French journalist has also reported that beginning in 1979, Nada was trying to find economic support for the new Islamic Republic of Iran and that in the 1980’s, a Muslim Brother residing in Switzerland tried to bring DMI nearly a billion dollars of Iranian capital although the Saudis, weary of the Shiite revolution, did not conclude the deal.
In spite of these historical links between DMI/Al-Faisal and the Muslim Brotherhood, further analysis is required to clarify any current operational relationships between the two entities although preliminary evidence points to financing of Hamas rather than Al Qaida. In January 2007, the Wall Street Journal reported on accusations that a DMI affiliate known as the Faisal Private Bank had been the subject of U.S. federal probes into the financing of Hamas:
A DMI affiliate called Faisal Private Bank (Switzerland) SA, formerly known as Faisal Finance, has been named in two major terrorism probes. In one of these, the Justice Department alleges that Faisal Finance wired $665,000 to the account of a top Hamas leader, Mousa Abu Marzouk. (The source of those funds hasn’t been disclosed.) In the same prosecution, the Justice Department alleges that in 1993, a Saudi businessman used Faisal Finance to transfer $30,000 to an alleged Hamas leader in Chicago named Muhammad Salah, who is currently on trial in Chicago on terrorism-related conspiracy charges. The same Saudi businessman, Yassin Qadi, also used Faisal Finance for a $1.25 million transfer to an alleged al Qaeda front company in 1998, according to legal and bank records.
An earlier post has reported on the possible connections between the Al Taqwa Bank and Hamas financing based on offshore financial structures in Liechtenstein. Also requiring further analysis is the role of Islamic banking in the process of “Islamization” and the expansion of the global Muslim Brotherhood, arguably their most important function yet rarely mentioned in media reports on the subject.
(note: information on Youssef Nada and Al-Faisal partially drawn from “La vie secrète de Youssef Nada, ambassadeur de l’ombre des Frères musulmans” Le Temps Movember 20, 2002.)