Saudi Arabia on the diplomatic offensive: Disputes terror funding allegation

The Government of Saudi Arabia revealed a number of substantial legal and regulatory changes enacted over the past year to counter terrorism Adel Al Jubeir, foreign policy advisor to Crown Prince Abdullah, told journalists at a press conference at the Saudi Embassy in Washington yesterday.

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By  Massoud Derhally Published  December 4, 2002

The Government of Saudi Arabia revealed a number of substantial legal and regulatory changes enacted over the past year to counter terrorism Adel Al Jubeir, foreign policy advisor to Crown Prince Abdullah, told journalists at a press conference at the Saudi Embassy in Washington yesterday.

Important steps have recently been taken to control charitable funds, prevent money laundering, and improve multi-lateral cooperation, said Al Jubeir.

In cooperation with the United States and other countries, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been on the forefront of the war on terrorism. The announcement Saudi officials said, was made to correct misperceptions about the Kingdom in this area.

“For too long, Saudi Arabia has been wrongly accused of being uncooperative or ineffective in combating terrorism,” said Al Jubeir. “The unfounded charges against Saudi Arabia have gotten out of control. We recognize that it is now incumbent on us to more openly articulate our anti-terrorism policies and actions,” added Al Jubeir

Al Jubeir said one of the most salient developments is in the area of charitable organizations, which came under attack in the US media after the 9-11 attacks. Charitable giving, said Al Jubeir is an important part of Islam and there are hundreds of legitimate charities throughout the Kingdom. Al Jubeir said Saudi Arabia has recently completed a thorough review of its charitable organizations and has made a number of specific changes. "All charities are now subject to extensive audits to ensure that the funds provided by donors are used for their intended purposes," Al Jubeir said. Charities whose activities extend beyond Saudi Arabia’s borders must now report and coordinate their activities with the Saudi Foreign Ministry.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell, described the Saudi presentation as "a serious effort to deal with our concerns." "I have always said the Saudis have done a lot," Powell said. "They have done a number of things that were responsible. Could they do more? Yes. Now they have responded in what seems like a forthright way," told journalists.

Saudi Arabia has also established a High Commission for oversight of all charities, and is in the final stage of setting up detailed Operational Procedures to track all donations to and from the charities. “The most significant new action we have taken has been in the area of charitable giving. In the past, we may have been naive in our giving and did not have adequate controls over all of our donations,” said Al-Jubeir. “As a consequence, some may have taken advantage of our charity and generosity. With the new steps we are taking, this is now changing,” he added.

Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesman, was quoted by AP saying, "The president believes that Saudi Arabia has been a good partner in the war against terrorism, but even a good partner like Saudi Arabia can do more."

Al Jubeir said the Kingdom plans to re-invigorate the joint Counter- Terrorism Committee with the United States to include, in addition to intelligence and law enforcement personnel, personnel with financial expertise. Saudi Arabia has also toughened its laws and regulations regarding money laundering. “I would like to say that all of our efforts are new, but the fact is that we have had a very advanced legal and regulatory framework for our banks and financial institutions for many years,” Al Jubeir said. “Still, one can always do more and in recent months, we have augmented anti-money laundering units in every Saudi bank. We are increasing the resources and training for these units.”

The Kingdom issued new regulations to prevent money laundering. Banks are no longer permitted to open bank accounts for non-resident individuals without specific approval from the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA).

Other announced contributions include:

* The Kingdom froze the accounts of suspected individuals and initiated investigations of transactions that the suspects linked to Al-Qaeda may have undertaken in the past. The information from these investigations has been shared with U.S. authorities.

* In the summer of 2002, Saudi Arabia and the United States took joint action and froze the assets of Wa’el Hamza Julaidan, an associate of Osama bin Laden who provided financial and logistical support to Al-Qaeda.

* Saudi Arabia’s intelligence and military cooperation has led to the break-up of at least 3 Al-Qaeda cells and the arrest of key Al-Qaeda commanders, including Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the planner of the 1998 Embassy bombings in Africa.

* Saudi Arabia has investigated bank accounts suspected to be linked to terrorism and froze 33 accounts belonging to 3 individuals and one institution totalling $5,574,196.00.

* The U.S. and Saudi Arabia shut down the Somalia and Bosnia branches of the Al Haramain Islamic Foundation. While the U.S. and Saudi Arabia jointly determined that the Saudi headquarters for this private charitable entity is dedicated to helping those in need, the two governments discovered that the Somalia and Bosnia branches of Al Haramain Foundation had been infiltrated.

* Saudi Arabia, over the past few years, has helped identify a network of companies and organizations in the Middle East, Europe, Asia and the Caribbean that Osama bin Laden used to move money around the world. A sophisticated network that wove through more than 25 nations was uncovered and the network is substantially handicapped according to Saudi officials. “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is committed to fight the scourge of terrorism and will do so with vigilance and determination for as long as it takes,” Al Jubeir said.

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