Washington Post - February 20, 2004
U.S. freezes accounts of Islamic charity
By John Mintz
The Treasury Department ordered banks yesterday (2/19) to freeze the accounts of the Oregon and Missouri branches of a large Saudi charity that U.S. officials say has been used to finance the al Qaeda terrorist network around the world.
FBI and Internal Revenue Service agents searched a home in Ashland, Ore., that is the U.S. headquarters for the charity, the al-Haramain Islamic Foundation. The search is part of an investigation into allegations that the Oregon branch was involved in money laundering and income tax and currency-reporting violations, Treasury officials said.
Over the past two years, U.S. and Saudi authorities have intensified a joint crackdown on al-Haramain offices around the globe after concluding that they had funneled money, personnel and equipment to al Qaeda. Branches in Bosnia and Somalia were shuttered in 2002, and last December others were closed in Indonesia, Kenya, Tanzania and Pakistan.
U.S. officials continue to investigate the foundation's headquarters in Saudi Arabia. Several weeks ago al-Haramain's chief, Aqeel al-Aqeel, was fired by top Saudi clerical authorities amid growing suspicions about his role at the charity.
Lawrence Matasar, an attorney for the al-Haramain office in Oregon, said charity officials in that state are cooperating with the government in the investigation. "We believe no crimes have been committed," he said.
The U.S. branch of the charity has mainly distributed Islamic books and videos to Americans, and also helped establish a mosque in Springfield, Mo., with more than $370,000 provided by the Saudi headquarters.