WASHINGTON (CNNfn) - New details of suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden's finances emerged Wednesday in a Senate Banking Committee hearing on money laundering.|
Among other things, the committee learned of a bank established by bin Laden with links to banks around the world and bank accounts at the fraud-ridden Bank of Credit and Commerce International, which was closed in the early 1990s.
This tidbit of information had been in the possession of U.S. investigators as long as a decade ago, but overlooked, a senator testified. This is because bin Laden had not then been identified as a focus of U.S. terrorism concerns.
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who conducted an investigation into the fraud-ridden Bank of Credit and Commerce International, said bin Laden held a number of accounts with BCCI.
"When we shut it down, we dealt him a very serious economic blow." Kerry said.
The global BCCI, established by Pakistanis but incorporated in Luxembourg, was shut down by regulators in a multibillion-dollar collapse in the early 1990s. It was not only a haven for money launderers but a major route of financing for the volunteer Islamic force that went to Afghanistan – of which bin Laden was a part – to fight the Russian army.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., also highlighted information that his committee made public several months ago but was overlooked generally with regard to the operation of a bank in Sudan that was established by bin Laden in the early 1990s.
Levin said bin Laden allegedly provided the AlShamal Islamic Bank (www.shamalbank.com) with $50 million in start-up capital.
Levin said he believes that at least until last year, bin Laden had been the leading shareholder of the bank. Levin also pointed out that in testimony given earlier this year at the embassy bombing trials, one witness testified that bin Laden's network had half a dozen accounts at the AlShamal Bank to fund their activities. One account was in bin Laden's own name.
The AlShamal bank's Web site says it has correspondent relationships with major banks in financial capitals, Levin said. They include Credit Lyonnaise (based in Geneva), Commerz Bank in Germany, ING Bank in Indonesia, and Standard Bank in South Africa.
Levin said each of those banks "has correspondent accounts with U.S. banks, and that's a problem.
AlShamal's Web site also lists relationship with three American banks, including Citibank, American Express Bank and the Arab American Bank, recently bought by the National Bank of Egypt.
In his statement, Levin noted that "thankfully, all three banks told us that the correspondent accounts they had with the Shamal Bank are either closed or have been largely inactive since 1997 or 1998." This followed action taken by the U.S. government in 1997 to add Sudan to its list of states that support terrorism.