‘Leading Bin Laden Financier On Board At Bahamas Bank’


Tribune Business Editor

An alleged top financier for Osama bin Laden’s al Qai’da network sat on the Board of a now-defunct Bahamian bank, a US Senate report released on Tuesday reveals.

Buried deep in the US permanent subcommittee’s report on HSBC is the claim that Sulaiman bin Abdul Aziz Al Rajhi, head of Saudi Arabia’s largest private bank, sat on the Board of Akida Bank, which was described as a Bahamian financial institution.

Al Rajhi Bank, Mr Rajhi’s institution, was alleged by the Senate report to have been used as a conduit to channel funds to Islamic extremist groups, while the man himself was said to have been named among al Qai’da’s so-called ‘Golden List’ - its Top 20 financiers - on documents seized in 1992.

Drawing on documents from the US Treasury Department and a discontinued lawsuit by a Lloyd’s of London insurance syndicate, the US Senate report linked Mr Al Rajhi to two former Bahamas-based institutions - Bank al Taqwa and Akida Bank.

Both are now defunct, having been placed on a US Treasury list as alleged terror financiers in 2002. The allegations were vehemently denied at the time by both institutions and their Bahamian attorneys.

“In 2011, a civil lawsuit filed by an insurance syndicate against Saudi Arabia and others seeking to recover insurance payments made after the 9-11 terrorist attack discussed two of those suspect banks, Bank al Taqwa and Akida Bank Private Ltd,” the US Senate report said in relation to Mr Al Rajhi.

The lawsuit alleged that two former Bank Al Taqwa executives, Ibrahim Hassabella and Samir Salah, were associated with the SAAR Foundation, an entity connected to Mr Al Rajhi and his family, and which had been the subject of investigations by the US authorities.

“Mr Saleh was a former director and treasurer of the Bahamas branch of Al Taqwa Bank, and president of the Piedmont Trading Corporation, which was part of the SAAR network,” the US Senate report noted of the lawsuit claims.

“The US Treasury Department has stated: ‘The Al Taqwa group has long acted as financial advisers to al Qai’da, with offices in Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Italy and the Caribbean.

“Regarding Akida Bank, the lawsuit complaint alleged that Sulaiman bin Abdul Aziz Al Rajhi was ‘on the board of directors of Akida Bank in the Bahamas’ and that ‘Akida Bank was run by Youssef Nada, a noted terrorist financier’.”