Wide Saudi ‘loopholes’ let charity funds slip to terrorists

December 25, 2010

By Shaun Waterman, The Washington Times

Despite some success in disrupting funding for al Qaeda, Saudi authorities face major challenges in regulating the sprawling charitable sector in their desert kingdom, according to officials there and documents.

“There are still loopholes,” said a Saudi official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak with the media. “It is still possible for – [extremist] groups to use the system for their own advantage with impunity.”

A charities commission that Saudi officials promised to establish as long ago as 2002 “hasn’t started functioning yet,” the official said, adding that the proposal had “met with resistance” from some quarters of the government who feared they would have to cede authorities to the new body. “It’s a turf issue,” the official concluded.

Earlier this month, U.S. diplomatic cables posted by the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks painted U.S. officials as generally pleased with counterterrorism cooperation with the Saudis but less so with the kingdom’s actions on the terror-financing front, especially against groups other than al Qaeda.

“Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide,” says one cable from December 2009, adding that the groups “probably raise millions of dollars annually from Saudi sources, often during Hajj and Ramadan,” major Muslim festivals in the kingdom.

The Saudi official shared with The Washington Times a translation of a confidential assessment produced for Saudi officials in response to allegations that senior members of the royal family were involved in funding an opposition politician in an allied Muslim country.

The assessment clears the royals of involvement but shows the politician’s links to a complex web of organizations established by a network of Muslim Brotherhood leaders and supporters, including some that have been indicted or designated as terrorist financiers by U.S. authorities.

The assessment says that “increased diligence and efforts are warranted” to prevent further “misuse [of] the Saudi charitable infrastructure,” calling the web of organizations “an example of the extent to which the Muslim Brotherhood is using moderate-seeming politicians to further its extremist agenda.”

To read more, visit: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/dec/23/wide-saudi-loopholes-let-charity-funds-slip-to-ter/

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