Terrorist funds went via Latvia: FBI

  • 2002-05-23
  • Jorgen Johansson, RIGA
The Benevolence International Foundation, an Islamic charity organization, has funneled money through Latvian banks using the U.S. bank Citibank, according to the United States' Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The Chicago-based non-profit organization is also believed to be linked to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network.

William Moschella, the FBI's legal attachï in Tallinn, Estonia, refused to comment on the alleged money transaction through Latvia.

"I cannot comment on anything that has to do with bin Laden," he said.

The head of the Benevolence International Foundation, Enaam Arnout, is in jail in the United States facing a grand jury investigation, following an FBI investigation that showed he had lied about his support for Chechen rebels.

Federal agents arrested Arnout, a Syrian-born U.S. citizen, charging him with perjury and alleging he "had a relationship with bin Laden that dated back to the late 1980s," and that "donors to the charity had been victimized."

Furthermore, during the first four months of 2000, the charity organization forwarded a total of $685,560 to Islamic guerrillas trained by bin Laden's group to fight the Russians in Chechnya, according to the FBI.

Part of this money went through banks in Latvia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Russia, a conclusion made by federal agents after looking through the charity's documents. The foundation's assets were frozen on Dec. 14 last year.