NEW YORK (CNN/Money) -
The Bush administration launched a war on terror because of the alleged acts of Osama bin Laden. Ironically, one of the companies the administration has picked to rebuild Iraq after the latest phase of that war has ties to bin Laden's family, according to a published report.
Bechtel Corp., a private construction firm based in San Francisco, recently was awarded a State Department contract, potentially worth more than $600 million, to help rebuild Iraq's infrastructure after the recent U.S.-led war there.
The Bush administration pushed for that war, in part, because it said the regime of Saddam Hussein, former leader of Iraq, had ties to the al Qaeda terror network, headed by bin Laden, the group allegedly responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States.
According to an article in the May 5 issue of New Yorker magazine, several bin Laden family members -- part of a large, Saudi Arabian family that made a fortune in the construction business -- invested about $10 million in a private equity fund operated by former subsidiary of Bechtel before Sept. 11.
Fremont Group, a San Francisco-based private investment firm, once was a unit of Bechtel, and its board still includes Bechtel CEO Riley P. Bechtel and former U.S. Secretary of State and former Bechtel President George P. Shultz, along with several current Bechtel directors.
Bechtel could not be reached for comment.
Fremont spokeswoman Pat Harden confirmed bin Laden's family had invested $10 million in a Fremont fund, but she said the family had no ownership stake in Fremont and its investment was made "well before the events of Sept. 11."
"Our concern is that it be clear they're investors, like many, in one of our many private equity funds," Harden said, noting that the Patriot Act of 2001 requires such investors to be screened for connections to terrorism. "This is all totally legal and above-board."
Harden didn't know exactly when bin Laden's family invested in the equity fund. Fremont general counsel Rick Kopf told the New Yorker bin Laden's family had invested nothing in Fremont since Sept. 11.
None of bin Laden's family members has been charged with any crimes, and the family denounced Osama bin Laden in the mid-1990s. Some family members also have publicly denounced the Sept. 11 attacks.
Saying they feared for their safety, about two dozen family members living in the United States left the country as soon as airports re-opened after Sept. 11.