A UK journalist and supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood has complained that the Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Watch (GMBDW) is being used as a source by a Reuters database to screen banking clients for links to terrorism. Peter Oborne, writing for the BBC, begins the article by discussing the decision by the HSBC bank to close the accounts of UK Muslim Brotherhood leader Anas Altikriti and his family as we reported exclusively in July 2014:
In late July last year Mohammed Kozbar, chairman of the Finsbury Park Mosque near the Emirates football stadium in north London, was astonished to receive a letter out of the blue from his bankers, HSBC.
The letter informed him that his bank account was to be closed. It explained: “HSBC bank has recently conducted a general review and has concluded that provision of banking services to Finsbury Park Mosque now falls outside of our risk appetite.”
There was no further explanation and no right of appeal. Kozbar says that there had been no previous issues between the mosque and HSBC and that he “couldn’t understand” what had happened.
Several other Muslim institutions and individuals received the same letter from HSBC, each one dated 22 July 2014.
Other HSBC clients who suddenly fell outside the bank’s “risk appetite” included the Cordoba Foundation, a think tank which says that it specialises in building relations between the Muslim world and the West.
Anas Altikriti, the foundation’s chief executive, had banked with HSBC ever since he had been a university student 30 years ago. His personal bank account was closed, along with his wife’s and his two teenage children. Once again there was no right of appeal.
Mr. Oborne goes on to explain how he gained access to a confidential Reuters database said to be used by 49 out of the largest 50 banks in the world to help them judge who to take on, or to retain, as clients:
So what happened and why were the accounts closed? When we started to investigate we ran up against a wall of silence.
HSBC refuses to discuss the bank account closures. But we learned about World-Check, a confidential database owned by the financial information giant Thomson.
World-Check is used by 49 out of the largest 50 banks in the world to help them judge who to take on, or to retain, as clients.
In the post 9/11 world, banks are required to know their customers and can be held responsible if their clients are involved in financing terror or money-laundering. To avoid this, the banks rely heavily on databases like World-Check.
Journalists cannot get access to it but one of their clients – who had strong reservations about the software – let us in. When we obtained access to the database, the word “terrorism” came up in dark red, directly above the name of the Cordoba Foundation.
The World-Check website page sourced the “terrorism” claim to the United Arab Emirates. The UAE lists the Cordoba Foundation as a terror group.
One of the smaller Gulf states, the UAE has itself been the centre of money-laundering allegations. It has been criticised for human rights abuses, including torture. It brands certain political opponents – including the Muslim Brotherhood – as terrorists.
The World-Check website contained several strong disclaimers, and stressed that the “accuracy of the information found in the underlying media sources should be verified with the profile subject before any action is taken”. Furthermore, World-Check stressed that the decision to open or close accounts lay with the banks.
Finally, Oborne drops the bombshell on us by saying that he discovered that the GMBDW was being used as a source by World-Check:
World-Check’s profiles are created from publicly available information of the kind that anyone can access. However it is not clear that banks can always reach an informed decision about clients based on the World-Check information.
Questions also surround World-Check sources. On examination of the website, we discovered information from Wikipedia as well as blogs (for instance Muslim Brotherhood Watch) and the news agency WAM, which is close to the UAE government.
Presumably Mr. Oborne believes that all “blogs” by their very nature must be “questionable sources” irrespective of any examination of the particular blog in question and despite the fact that blogs have become so prolific in today’s that any sweeping characterization to describe them as a group is simply impossible. Aside from not bothering to get the name of the GMBDW correct, the GMBDW would also like to point out that our work, unlike the work in Mr. Oborne’s article, relies entirely on open sources which are always linked to and which can be verified by the readers themselves and that the GMBDW is widely read by agencies of the US government including the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and various components of the US military.
More importantly, since Mr. Oborne is implying that the GMBDW is somehow disreputable or questionable, we feel compelled to note that he himself is on record as a passionate supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood who in May 2014 made the following points about the Brotherhood in a TV interview:
- The Muslim Brotherhood is a “great political movement” that “speaks for the poorest and most disadvantaged”
- There is no “evidence at all” of Muslim Brotherhood links to terrorism.
- Many of the Muslim Brotherhood’s leading figures are “remarkably brave.”
- The David Cameron investigation into the Muslim Brotherhood is “completely mad” and being done to “please Saudi Arabia.”
In the interview, Mr. Oborne also acknowledges that Hamas is part of the Muslim Brotherhood movement but when offered an opportunity fails to condemn the group in any way, simply agreeing they have committed “acts of terrorism” but reverting his vitriol for Israel who he says is guilty of the “greatest atrocities”
Also in May 2014, Mr. Oborne appeared on a panel sponsored by Anas Altikriti’s Cordoba Foundation along with Altikriti and other supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood in the UK. The GMBDW also reported in June 2014 that Peter Oborne was among the signatories of a letter sponsored by the Cordoba Foundation protesting the Cameron investigation into the Brotherhood and that was also signed by numerous leader of the Brotherhood and Hamas support groups in the UK as well as their supporters.
In December 2014 Mr. Oborne, who resigned from The Telegraph over the case, co-authored an article in which he suggests political motives behind the closing of the HSBC accounts of Anas Altikriti and others writing “Without exception they were opponents of the Israeli war against Gaza, and some have connections to the Muslim Brotherhood.” In the same article, he writes that Muslim charities in the UK have been “subject to a barrage of spurious accusations of having links to extremism” and that “there is persuasive evidence that the real pressure comes from the United States.” In the article, Mr. Oborne promises to reveal the evidence for such pressure soon but does not appear to have ever done so.
Given Peter Oborne’s passionate support of the Muslim Brotherhood and his apparent close relationship with Anas Altikriti, the GMBDW judges that for him to imply that the GMBDW is somehow biased in our reporting is yet the latest case of the pot calling the kettle black.