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Spanish Probe Broadens

Europe: Partner of alleged terrorist financier is held. Officials detail money trail.

April 25, 2002|SEBASTIAN ROTELLA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

MADRID — The Spanish interior minister released details Wednesday on how alleged terrorist financiers, hiding behind a facade of respectability, used profits from their construction and real estate companies to fund Al Qaeda activities around the world.

Meanwhile, police made their second arrest in two days in a crackdown on the alleged operation, taking into custody a business partner of a Syrian-born Spaniard detained Tuesday. A third man was arrested earlier.

The investigation has documented the movement of hundreds of thousands of dollars to significant figures linked to the Sept. 11 attacks in the U.S., the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa, an attempted assassination in Yemen and other terrorist acts, according to Interior Minister Mariano Rajoy.

"As far as we know, the suspects dedicated themselves to real estate, constructing residences, etc.," Rajoy said at a news conference.

The profiles of the three suspected financiers contrast with those of other alleged Al Qaeda operatives whose cells around Europe have been dismantled. Many suspects financed themselves through crimes such as credit card fraud; many come from backgrounds of student radicalism, immigrant ghettos or prisons.

The crackdown in Madrid, however, has targeted a group of Syrians who immigrated here decades ago, married Spanish women, obtained citizenship and established middle- and even upper-middle-class lives. If the men are guilty, they are the ultimate "sleeper" terrorists.

Accustomed to stereotypes of shaggy fanatics and scruffy illegal immigrants, Spaniards were taken aback by the appearance of alleged chief financier Mohammed Galeb Kalaje Zouaydi, the dapper businessman arrested Tuesday.

Police arrested Zouaydi's business partner, Ghasoub Abrash Ghalyoun, at his office Wednesday. Another partner, Bassam Dalati Satut, was jailed in November, along with seven other alleged accomplices of the Sept. 11 hijackers.

Dalati's arrest stunned his friends. Not only does his non-Muslim Spanish wife work in a government ministry, their children attend a British school, according to his lawyers. But investigators say they found the name of a known Al Qaeda training camp boss on a document locked in a trunk in one of the children's bedrooms.

As for Zouaydi, authorities allege that a global money trail connects him to an international rogue's gallery of suspects. Instead of laundering illegal proceeds, police said, he donated to criminal causes.

Authorities say they documented transfers of about $44,000 to Imad Eddin Barakat Yarkas, the alleged boss of the major Al Qaeda cell based in Madrid. About $208,000 went to two Islamic nongovernmental organizations in Belgium run by Nabil Sayadi, who allegedly had close ties to a man convicted in the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, police said.

About $100,000 from the financiers flowed to Mohammed Bahaiah, described by Spanish investigators as Osama bin Laden's courier between Afghanistan and Europe.

The Interior Ministry provided a diagram that also accused Zouaydi of channeling about $15,000 to two Barakat associates in Germany. One of the men--Syrian-born importer-exporter Mamoun Darkazanli--allegedly was an associate of suspected Sept. 11 hijack leader Mohamed Atta, Spanish police said.

The Interior Ministry described transfers amounting to about $600,000; the total funding by Zouaydi's operation is believed to have reached $2 million, according to a senior law enforcement official.

Despite the Spanish accusations, Darkazanli and the other man remain free. Rajoy said the Spanish investigation could contribute to a criminal case in Germany against Darkazanli, whose bank accounts there have been frozen, and the other man, Abdul Fattah Zammar.

In a separate case, German police arrested a suspect Wednesday after saying they smashed a terrorist cell with the arrest of 11 alleged Islamic extremists the day before. All 12 men, said to belong to the Al Tawhid group, were nabbed in raids across Germany after agents who had been watching their purported leader concluded that the cell was plotting attacks on German targets.

*

Times staff writer Carol J. Williams in Berlin contributed to this report.

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