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Wednesday, 4 September, 2002, 14:40 GMT 15:40 UK
'Al-Qaeda gold moved to Sudan'
Gold
Gold is al-Qaeda's preferred financial tool
Al-Qaeda and Taleban gold has been shipped out of Pakistan to Sudan, passing through the United Arab Emirates and Iran, according to Pakistani and US investigators.

A Washington Post newspaper report says that in recent weeks large quantities of gold, often disguised as something else, have left the Pakistani port of Karachi in small boats bound for either Iran or Dubai.

Once there, the boxes of gold are mixed with other goods and packed on board chartered planes bound for Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, the report said.

The bankers are the ones that move the money and the bankers are not sitting in caves in Afghanistan

US Intelligence Official

Sudanese officials have denied the report, saying Khartoum had imposed strict border controls to prevent the infiltration of "radical elements".

"It is a lie... Sudan is fighting terrorism and it has no links with al-Qaeda and the Taleban," Internal Affairs Minister Abdel Rahim Mohamed Hussein was quoted as saying in the independent Al-Sahafi Al-Douli newspaper.

Iranian Government spokesman Abdollah Ramazanzadeh also rejected the report.

The Washington Post said it was not known how much gold had been transported.

But US and European intelligence officials said the amount was great enough to indicate that the al-Qaeda network and the Taleban still had large financial reserves at their disposal.

The officials said the shipments also spotlighted three developments in the war on terror:

  • The role of Iranian intelligence units allied with hard-line clerics as protectors of al-Qaeda

  • The possible re-emergence of Sudan as the organisation's financial centre

  • The ability of the network to create new sources of income despite the global crackdown on its finances

Al-Qaeda may have selected Sudan because Osama Bin Laden, the organisation's Saudi-born leader, is familiar with the country and still has business contacts there, the sources said.

They added that traditional destinations for al-Qaeda money, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, were being closely monitored by the international community, while transactions in Sudan could more easily pass unnoticed.

Gold preference

Gold has long been the financial instrument of choice for the Taleban and al-Qaeda.

When the Taleban ruled Afghanistan most of the treasury was held in gold and taxes were often collected in gold.

Senior US intelligence officials said they were investigating the information about the new gold shipments but had no further comment.

The Washington Post quoted an official as saying: "We know they are looking at new sources of revenue and are finding new ways to raise and move funds to where they are accessible."

"The bankers are the ones that move the money and the bankers are not sitting in caves in Afghanistan."


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