OUR PALS THE SAUDIS
A Swiss-based businessman accused by the US Treasury of providing financial help to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda carried a Saudi diplomatic passport, according to copies of documents contained in a book published today in Paris.
The documents include a letter from the US Treasury to the Swiss authorities, which says that al-Qaeda and its leader received financial assistance from the businessman, Ali bin Mussalim, "as of late September 2001". They also include a copy of Mr bin Mussalim's diplomatic passport.
The disclosures, contained in Al-Qaeda Will Conquer (Al-Qa'ida Vaincra), by the author Guillaume Dasquie, will be uncomfortable reading for the Saudi government, which has disputed any suggestions of official complicity in the attacks of September 11 2001.
The January 2002 letter from George Wolfe, then the US Treasury's deputy general counsel, says Mr bin Mussalim "has been providing indirect investment services for al-Qaeda, investing funds for bin Laden, and making cash deliveries on request to the al-Qaeda organisation".
The letter links him to the now defunct Bank Al-Taqwa and its founder, Youssef Nada....
Newsweek's Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball were following the story of bin Mussalim, Nada, and Bank Al-Taqwa last year, though the bit about the Saudi diplomatic passport is new. Isikoff and Hosenball said that a particular account at Bank Al-Taqwa
was originally set up for Mamdouh Mahmoud Salim, a one-time member of Al Qaeda's governing Shura Council who was captured in Germany after the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Africa and has been awaiting trial while in prison in the United States ever since.... After Salim's arrest, other Al Qaeda figures continued to access the account, [a] legal source said....
In addition, the [Treasury Department] letter notes that one of Al-Taqwa's board members, Ahmed Huber, had confirmed that he had met with members of bin Laden's organization in Beirut and had defended the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.... The letter also states that another Al-Taqwa board member, Ahmed Idris Nasreddin, has supported an Islamic center in Milan that the U.S. government believes may be Al Qaeda’s "most important base in Europe" and which was linked to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, among other terror plots.
This Isikoff/Hosenball story appeared on May 12, 2004. The Financial Times notes that
Mr bin Mussalim was found dead in his residence in Lausanne last June, a month after reports of the US Treasury letter first emerged.
Here's another curious detail in the FT story:
Other documents cited in the book include a flight manifest of the so-called bin Laden flight, in which members of the bin Laden family were flown out of the US in the days after the September 11 attacks.
The manifest shows 29 people aboard the flight that flew to Le Bourget airport from Boston on September 20, after originating in Los Angeles and then flying to Orlando and Washington Dulles airport. This contradicts the number cited in the report of the 9/11 Commission published last year, which said there were 26 people aboard.
The manifest shows the aircraft flew on from Le Bourget to Geneva and Jeddah.
Geneva. That's in Switzerland, you know.