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Tuesday, 19 November, 2002, 12:41 GMT
UK freezes assets of 'Bin Laden charity'
Dollar bills and laptop
The UK is attempting to cut off terror funds
A Muslim aid agency accused of diverting funds to the al-Qaeda terror network to help it build a nuclear weapon has had its assets frozen by UK Chancellor Gordon Brown.


Benevolence International Foundation raises funds for al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden

Gordon Brown
Financial institutions were ordered to freeze funds belonging to the Benevolence International Foundation (BIF) at midnight on Monday.

The organisation's chief executive Enaam Araout has already been indicted in the US on racketeering charges.

The UK Treasury claims "strong evidence" exists linking BIF with al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.

Evidence

This includes alleged attempts by al-Qaeda to obtain uranium for the purpose of building a nuclear weapon, a Treasury spokesman said.

The evidence also includes personal contacts between senior BIF officials and al-Qaeda operatives involved in the 1998 bombings of two US embassies in Africa, the spokesman added.

The Charity Commission has also imposed a temporary freeze on the accounts of a UK-based charity called Benevolence International (UK), while investigations are carried out into possible links with BIF.

Despite its similar name, the Commission said it had "no immediate grounds" for suspecting BI (UK) of any wrongdoing.

The UK groups accounts had been frozen as a "temporary and protective measure", said a Treasury statement.

'Extensive involvement'

In a statement, Gordon Brown said: "At home and abroad we continue to bear down on the funding of terrorism.

"Benevolence International Foundation raises funds for al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.

"BIF operates as an international organisation with offices around the world and is extensively involved in funding international terrorism.

"I have no doubt that in taking concerted international action today we are cutting off the finances of an extremely threatening fund-raiser for terrorism.

"Here in the UK, the police have acted swiftly against terrorist suspects, with significant seizures of terrorist funds."

Accounts

On its website, BIF describes itself as "a humanitarian organization dedicated to helping those afflicted by wars and natural disasters".

The Illinois-based organisation, which was set up in 1992, says it has aid programmes in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bosnia, China, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and the Russian Federation states of Ingushetia and Dagestan.

In its accounts for 2000-2001, BIF claims to have spent $3,365,457 (2,086,583) on aid projects and running expenses.


Key stories

European probe

Background

IN DEPTH
See also:

13 Nov 02 | Americas
20 Nov 01 | South Asia
08 Nov 02 | Americas
26 Aug 02 | Americas
01 Sep 02 | September 11 one year on
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