Qatar institutions sued in US for financing terrorism
LONDON – Qatar’s leading financial institutions secretly funnelled millions of dollars to US-designated terrorist organisations responsible for carrying out terrorist attacks that killed US citizens, according to allegations presented Wednesday in an unprecedented lawsuit filed in New York City.
According to the milestone lawsuit, which was filed by American victims of terrorist attacks in Israel, Qatari banks, Masraf al Rayan and Qatar National Bank, in conspiracy with Qatar Charity, secretly laundered money through the US financial system to both of the Palestinian Islamist movement of Hamas and Islamic Jihad to carry out terrorist attacks in the Jewish state.
The lawsuit specifically targets Qatar Charity, which is known for funding Islamist and terror groups in the MENA region.
Qatar Charity allegedly worked with Masraf Al Rayan bank and Qatar National Bank to forward Hamas and Islamic Jihad (PIJ) millions of dollars, according to the lawsuit.
“Both banks were essential to provide access to the US financial system to obtain the US dollars needed to sustain Hamas’s and PIJ’s terrorist activities," the lawsuit added.
After funnelling the charitable donations through banks located in New York, the money was allegedly transferred to Qatar Charity’s accounts at the Bank of Palestine and the Islamic Bank in Ramallah, where the funds were then distributed to affiliates of Hamas and PIJ.
At least $28 million dollars was distributed by Qatar Charity to its affiliates in Palestinian-controlled territories between March and September 2015, according to the lawsuit.
Internal documents from Qatar Charity in the lawsuit showed that it transferred funds to Hamas and PIJ fronts from at least 2013.
Qatar Charity, which is the largest charity in Qatar, renamed its European arm Qatar Charity UK in 2017 as Nectar Trust in order to conceal its suspicious activities after growing allegations of its involvement in financing Islamists and to avoid suspicions from international banks.
In 2008, Qatar Charity was listed in as priority III terrorism support entity (TSE) by the Interagency Intelligence Committee on Terrorism, according to a US diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks.
The lawsuit alleged that these funds directly aided at least six terrorist attacks conducted by Hamas and PIJ operatives between 2014 and 2016, including several car-ramming attacks in Israel, killing several US citizens.
It detailed the illegal misuse of the US financial system to facilitate attacks against Americans, including Taylor Force, whose family is the most important plaintiff.
In 2018, US President Donald Trump signed the Taylor Force Act into law to stop US funds from going to the Palestinian Authority if they continued making “martyr payments” to those who attack innocents.
The latest allegations against Qatari banks and charity organisation, which are largely controlled by members of Qatar’s royal family came amid ongoing congregational investigation into the Gulf emirate’s state-sponsored terrorism.
In June 2017, Trump accused Qatar of sponsoring terrorism at the highest levels.
“The nation of Qatar, unfortunately, has historically been a funder of terrorism at a very high level,” Trump said few days after Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain cut diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar, accusing Doha of financing terrorism, supporting Islamist groups, and undermining efforts to isolate Iran.
“I decided, along with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, our great generals and military people, the time had come to call on Qatar to end its funding — they have to end that funding — and its extremist ideology in terms of funding,” said Trump in a press conference.
In June 2016, the US State Department released “the Country Report on Terrorism 2015” that accused Qatar of funding terrorist and violent extremist groups.
"Entities and individuals within Qatar continue to serve as a source of financial support for terrorist and violent extremist groups, particularly regional al-Qaida affiliates such as the Nusra Front,” said the report, noting Qatar's maintenance of an active watchlist of terrorist suspects.
The lawsuit is the latest in a series of lawsuits against Qatar’s financial institutions and charity groups.
Last January, American photojournalist Matthew Schrier, who was captured by the Nusra Front in 2012, accused Qatar Islamic Bank (QIB) of directly funding Qatar Charity that provided funds for terrorist groups in Syria.
In a federal lawsuit filed in Florida on January 13, Schrier sought damages for his claim that the Nusra Front, which is now known as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, and Ahrar al-Sham relied on QIB to provide financial services to an international network of donors and charities that helps fund their operations.
“QIB acted willfully, wantonly, recklessly, or with deliberate disregard to the Nusra Front’s assault on Americans in Syria, including Mr. Schrier,” said the federal complaint.
In August 2019, eight Syrians lodged a claim against Doha Bank in London’s High Court for substantial loss and damage, including severe physical and psychiatric injuries, destruction of property, loss of profits and forcible displacement from their homes in Syria at the hands of the Nusra Front.
“Payments of large sums were made through Doha Bank into accounts in Turkey and/or Lebanon where the money was withdrawn and then carried out over the border with Syria where it was used to fund al-Nusra Front, formerly al Qaeda's official Syrian affiliate, which caused loss and damage to the claimants who now live in Europe,” said the claim.