Sunday, December 26, 2004

The French Fight Terrorism, We Terrorize Iraqis.

This from Reuters, I thought it deserved a reprint:

French Magistrate Widens Bin Laden Finance Probe Sat Dec 25,10:05 AM ET

PARIS (Reuters) - A French judge has widened a probe into the financial network surrounding the family of Osama bin Laden (news - web sites) after questioning his half-brother and learning of a 241 million euro transfer to Pakistan, Le Monde daily said.

Investigating magistrate Renaud Van Ruymbeke received court authorization to extend his investigation after Yeslam bin Laden was questioned on Sept. 27 over allegations of links with the organizers of attacks in 2001 in the United States, the paper said in its Saturday edition.

As a result, Van Ruymbeke was adding “other instances of money laundering” to the probe already under way, Le Monde said.

The court was unreachable for comment on Saturday.

On Dec. 5, 2001, French authorities opened an investigation into financial transfers carried out through Paris between firms grouped within the Saudi Investment Company (SICO) run by Yeslam bin Laden, who also manages some assets of the family's Saudi Binladin Group (SBG).

Yeslam bin Laden was questioned by the French judge in 2002, and has handed over a copy of documents detailing the distribution of the bin Laden family wealth to 54 brothers and sisters after the death of their father in 1967, the paper said.

Although he denied having had any contact with his half- brother for the past 20 years, the paper said, documents held by Swiss banking authorities suggest that Yeslam and Osama bin Laden held a joint account in Switzerland between 1990 and 1997, according to Jean-Charles Brisard -- a private investigator hired by families of the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Yeslam told French investigators in September that he had omitted to mention the existence of that account, while still insisting he had not had mixed with his half-brother, Le Monde said.

Yeslam bin Laden's Swiss-based lawyer, Pierre de Preux, could not immediately be reached by Reuters for comment.

But contacted by Le Monde, de Preux said his client simply acted as a relay for the rest of the family wishing to deposit their inheritance in Switzerland, since Yeslam was resident in Geneva.

And he added that the Swiss court had already questioned Yeslam bin Laden over the matter, in 2003, before classifying it as unconnected.

The French authorities, however, say the facts require further checking. Brisard notified Van Ruymbeke on Sept. 6 this year of several suspicious funds transfers, Le Monde said.

The investigator noted a 241 million euro transfer made to Pakistan in 2000 from an account belonging to a company called Cambridge, a SBG subsidiary, that was opened at Deutsche Bank in Geneva, the paper added.

U.S. authorities are aware of the existence of those funds, which they believe were transferred into an account belonging jointly to Osama bin Laden and someone of Pakistani nationality, it said.

The French authorities say the presence of SICO within the Saudi Binladin Group's orbit in Geneva justifies its probe, Le Monde added.

:::::Meanwhile, Bush continues to blow up Iraqis, and is planning on going after Syria and Iran next. Meanwhile, Osama bin Laden’s where-abouts are unknown:::::


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