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Islamic Charity money from Pakistan used to fund UK plane plot

Islamic Charity money from Pakistan used to fund UK plane plot

Author: Sarfaraz Ahmed and Maqbool Ahmed
Publication: Daily Times
Date: August 12, 2006
URL: http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2006\08\12\story_12-8-2006_pg1_1

* Funds given to two British citizens of Kashmiri origin and an Islamabad-based Kashmiri builder
* 'Earthquake relief' money remitted to individuals alarmed British agencies

A UK-based Islamic charity organisation remitted a huge amount of money to three individuals in three different bank accounts in Mirpur, Azad Kashmir, in December last year with the sole purpose of helping its recipients and their organisations carry out the aircraft bombing plan in the UK, insider sources told Daily Times yesterday.

An investigation carried out by Daily Times showed that Muslim Charity of UK remitted not so long ago a huge amount of money under the head of "earthquake relief" to the accounts of three individuals in three different banks - Saudi Pak Bank, Standard Chartered and Habib Bank Ltd. One of these banks is UK based and has its presence in Azad Kashmir because of a huge number of British citizens of Kashmir origin in UK. The money was transferred from UK to banks in Azad Kashmir through Barclays Plc..

Two of the recipients of the transaction are British citizens of Kashmir origin while the third is an Islamabad-based builder, also of Kashmir origin. They were arrested in the last two weeks at three different places in the country. One of them was arrested in Karachi, the "builder" was arrested in Islamabad while the place of the arrest of the third suspect is still not known. There are no available details about these three suspects with regard to their links with organisations such as Al Qaeda or Lashkar-e-Taiba or both.

Pakistani FIA investigators were apparently tipped off by the British authorities about the fund transfers and asked to investigate. Following their arrests the three suspects revealed some key elements of the aircraft bombing plan during interrogations by various agency personnel, who were also aided by at least one expert specialising in money laundering. The Pakistani and British investigators were able to discover how operatives at both ends had raised and moved their funds around. These investigations also established that it was due to the prompt and successful operation of Pakistan's intelligence agencies, particularly the FIA, that the world was saved from a fate worse than 9/11.

"Had we been even slightly complacent, the perpetrators of this plot might have been able to carry out their operations without little or no problem in the UK because of two broad reasons," said a senior government official, who was privy to the inquiry carried out by Pakistani agencies following the receipt of a tip from UK's National Terrorist Financial Investigation Unit in June this year.

First, he said, "Pakistani anti-terrorism agency counterparts abroad have been showing a lot of trust in our skills and abilities and none of our reports has so far been challenged by them." Second, he added, any delay on the part of the Pakistan agencies in acquiring and relaying this information would have cost the NTFIU dearly for it was desperate to know the outcome of Pakistan's inquiry report in order to determine whether or not to ask the UK authorities to declare a "red alert" in the country. Giving details, the official said the NTFIU, which reportedly plays a central role in informing and implementing British government policy on terrorist finance and is an integral part of the UK's intelligence structure targeting terrorist finance, had asked Pakistani authorities to carry out a "highly discreet" inquiry on some money transfers.

According to the NTFIU, a huge amount of money had been transferred from Britain to Azad Kashmir for quake relief efforts two months after the quake caused devastation. "Neither the amount nor the purpose for which money was sent caused any concern in the British investigation unit," said the senior official. "What raised alarm among British sleuths specialising in finances was the fact that the entire money was remitted to three individuals, not to any organisation or organisations involved in the relief work."

The official, who refused to disclose the amount, however said that the entire transaction was in pound sterling. "It is up to you to deduce. What I can say is that it was a huge amount. Had it not been gone into the accounts of individual, nobody would have been bothered," he said.

A senior Pakistani banker who has successfully dealt with a number of money laundering cases told Daily Times on condition of anonymity that the UK has had extensive experience of tracking, disrupting and undermining the finances of terrorist networks and continues to develop new ways in which such targeting and disruption can be effectively achieved. In this case too, the UK Unit's expertise provided immense guidance to Pakistani sleuths to uncover the plot, he added. Another senior official told Daily Times that the Pakistani agencies have in recent months been able to effect significant seizures of terrorist cash and identify and disrupt terrorist fundraising activity.

According to him, all banks, including multinationals, and financial institutions have been cooperating fully in seeking out sources of terrorist funding since 9/11. "This was mainly due to the cooperation of the three banks through which money was transferred to these suspects," the official said, and added that one of the most significant features contributing to the success of this case was increased integration between key bodies involved, ranging from government, law enforcement and regulatory bodies at home and abroad.

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