BBC Monitoring International Reports - October 31, 2004

Sarajevo, 23 October: One of the most important financiers of the Al-Qa'idah international terrorist network is, by all appearances, also involved in various forms of organized crime in Bosnia-Hercegovina and other countries of Southeastern Europe. Saudi Arabian citizen Yasin Al-Qadi, whom the US authorities identified as one of the 12 leading Al-Qa'idah financiers, owns one-fifth of Vakufska banka in Sarajevo and either owns or co-owns several other companies in Bosnia-Hercegovina.

Beta has learnt that investigators presume that cars, buses and meat were smuggled through the firms that have connections with Yasin Al-Qadi. Investigators from the United States have come to Bosnia-Hercegovina to shed light on Al-Qadi's activity. According to US allegations, Al-Qadi was born in 1959 in Cairo and has a Saudi Arabian passport. He is considered one of the ten richest people in the Arab world; he is a shareholder in banks worldwide, the chemical industry, the diamond trade and real estate, in addition to being a founder of several humanitarian organizations.

Amir Rizvanovic, director of Vakufska banka of Sarajevo, has confirmed for Kriminal NET that Al-Qadi owns 20 per cent of Vakufska banka shares. However, Rizvanovic explained that Al-Qadi was indeed a shareholder but that Vakufska banka had actually inherited that status and Al-Qadi's frozen shares. Rizvanovic denied the allegations by some media that Vakufska banka was financing terrorist activities in the world and pointed out that he had never met Al-Qadi. He said that the Saudi businessman, who was suspected of financing terrorism, had never even sent an authorized person to represent him in the Sarajevo bank, nor ordered any financial transaction through that bank in the past three years.

Al-Qadi also founded Depozitna banka of Sarajevo. After his partner Shafiq Ayadi, who was also known as (?Sefik Kajavi), left him for unknown reasons, Depozitna banka merged with Vakufska banka. Beta has learnt that Ayadi surrendered his ownership share in Vakufska banka to Al-Qadi and that Al-Qadi got 20 per cent of shares of the new merged bank that is still called Vakufska banka D. D. (Joint Stock Company).

Ayadi and Al-Qadi are together on the list of UN members and Al-Qa'idah helpers. The two of them were also running the Nahla citizens' association in Sarajevo that was registered in 1996 and disbanded two months before the terrorist attack in New York on 11 September 2001. "The ties between Al-Qadi and Vakufska banka were weak and realized solely through the share capital. The share capital entered Vakufska banka with the merger of the former Depozitna banka. The decision on the merger of Depozitna banka was made on 30 June 2001," Rizvanovic said. According to him, the only motive for the merger of Depozitna banka with Vakufska banka was the financial restructuring of the bank necessary in order to meet the legal regulations. "Our bank had to have 15m marks by 30 June 2001 and could not survive. That means that, before 11 September, Bin Ladin and Al-Qa'idah's actions in the United States, we were discussing the business option that would help us go on functioning as a bank and meet the financial requirements mandated by the law. It was then that we decided to merge with Depozitna banka," Rizvanovic said. "Had there been anything suspicious about the financial operations of Vakufska banka, we would not have got the approval of the Banking Agency and the Bosnia-Hercegovina Federation Commission for Securities to merge with the Depozitna banka capital in March 2002, that is, six months after Al-Qadi was put on the list of suspects," said the director of Vakufska banka. Rizvanovic pointed out that Al-Qadi had never taken part in the bank's meeting of shareholders and that he was not authorized to propose candidates for the bank's managing positions or influence the bank's business policy.

Asked whether he went over the financial records of the former Depozitna banka and whether he found anything suspicious in the transactions at that time, he said that, even after having gone over the accounts dealt with by Al-Qadi in that bank, he concluded that all the transactions had been made in keeping with the legal regulations valid at the time.

In addition to owning one-fifth of Vakufska banka, Al-Qadi also owns the Risala humanitarian organization in Sarajevo, a private elementary school located in the Bosnia-Hercegovina capital bearing the same name, in addition to being the owner and founder of the Euroinvest company of Sarajevo. The Risala company was registered with the Cantonal Court in Sarajevo on 2 December 2002 and Al-Qadi was listed as its founder.

The Bosnia-Hercegovina authorities are investigating Al-Qadi's assets alongside the foreign financial and legal experts. According to the information from Washington, Al-Qadi secured tens of million of dollars for the financing of terrorist activities worldwide through several humanitarian organizations. Zufer Dervisevic, head of the Bosnia-Hercegovina Federation Financial Police, told Kriminal NET that the Financial Police had for some time been investigating the Risala company located in the Sarajevo suburb of Grbavica. Vakufska banka confirmed that the Risala company had had an account in that bank but that the account had been blocked. "We blocked the company's account. The investigation is still under way and what I can tell you is that there are more and more grounds for further investigation every day and that the network of suspects is growing. We do not know how much longer the investigation can go on," Dervisevic said.

As US diplomats in Sarajevo told Kriminal NET, the United States identified a number of organizations that used to be or are still present in Bosnia-Hercegovina as terrorist organizations. Among the organizations suspected by the US authorities of having links with Al-Qa'idah, Usamah Bin-Ladin and the Afghan Taleban are the Bosnian branch of Al Haramayn and Al Masjid Al-Aqsa Charity Foundation, Vazir, a successor of the Bosnian Haramayn office, the Bosnian branch of Taibah International, Benevolence International Foundation that was active in Bosnia-Hercegovina, Global Relief Foundation that was active in Bosnia-Hercegovina, Bosniak Al Furqan organization, and two of its successor organizations, Sirat and Istikhanet.

Robert Cvrtak, spokesman of the Bosnia-Hercegovina Federation Interior Ministry, did not wish to say which particular humanitarian organizations from Bosnia-Hercegovina were suspected of financing terrorist organizations but he did confirm that the police had "investigated suspicious humanitarian organizations in the Bosnia-Hercegovina Federation" and that all the information gathered by the police had been passed on to the state prosecutor's office.

Prompted by the evidence of links between the financiers of international terrorism and organized crime in Bosnia-Hercegovina, the Sarajevo government has enacted new security measures. "The Bosnia-Hercegovina Council of Ministers has brought about the abolishment of entity intelligence services and the establishment of a single intelligence service (OSA) in Bosnia-Hercegovina with effect from 1 June. Furthermore, in the framework of the reform processes supported by the Bosnia-Hercegovina parliament designed to strengthen the powers of the State Information and Protection Agency (SIPA) in the fight against organized crime, human trafficking and money laundering, Bosnia-Hercegovina has started acquiring the instruments for the institutional fight against any form of crime," Bojan Zec-Popovic, adviser to the chairman of the Bosnia-Hercegovina Council of Ministers, said in a statement for Kriminal NET. He reiterated that the law on the unified registration of companies had been passed in Bosnia-Hercegovina that largely prevented the existence of fictitious companies that were used to finance criminal activities, as well as for the financing of Hague tribunal indictees.

US diplomats in Sarajevo seem to be satisfied with the behaviour of the local authorities. They have told Kriminal NET that "Bosnia-Hercegovina is playing an important role in the global partnership in the war against terrorism". They added that "the Bosnia-Hercegovina authorities cooperates efficiently with the United States and the international community in identifying, investigating and abolishing the said organizations", as well as that "the United States and Bosnia-Hercegovina recognize the dangers of financing terrorism under the auspices of humanitarian activities and the need for the ensuing establishment of international standards of financial transparency".

The extensive investigation in Bosnia-Hercegovina on the financing of terrorist organizations will definitely go on for months and over 30m convertible marks have been blocked so far in accounts of humanitarian organizations in Bosnia-Hercegovina. However, it is believed that the financial transactions that were really conducted from Bosnia-Hercegovina through those organizations, companies and banks are much more substantial than that.

Source: Beta news agency, Belgrade, in Serbian 0815 gmt 23 Oct 04

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