How the US terror war has victimized widely respected Muslim charities with years of hard work in helping the hungry and homeless while frauds like Bernard Madoff who cheated US exchequer out of billions of dollars get away with murder
THE longtime secretary of imprisoned US financier Bernard Madoff and his four other back-office subordinates went to trial on 8th October 2013. For the first time the US government shows a jury what it has collected in its five-year probe of one of history’s biggest frauds.
The trial in federal court in Manhattan is expected to conclude by March 2014. It features the unveiling of the government’s prize witness – Frank DiPascali, Madoff’s former finance chief. An important aspect of this mega-crime has remained hidden from general public; and is discussed in this piece.
It seems only yesterday that in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 drama, numerous Islamic charities worldwide were falsely targeted and forcefully shutdown. Their crime? ‘Terror’ financing! From Atlantic to Pacific, day-in-and-day-out mainstream media, politicians and their backers accused organizations which were genuinely and selflessly working to rebuild underprivileged and impoverished Muslim societies. Like Guantanamo, Bagram and Abu Gharib detainees, there was no one in the world to give a just, fair and un-biased hearing to these Islamic charities labeled as ‘network of terror financing’.
Al-Haramain Foundation (AHF), a Muslim charity based in Oregon closed down after their offices were raided by FBI agents. Mandatory annual charity called zakat is one of the five pillars of Islam. Muslims having a minimum threshold of fixed or liquid assets are supposed to part with a tiny percentage of such assets (or cash in lieu) every year so that those individuals or families living even below that threshold can lead a humane life.
For optimum benefits to the society, these funds are usually distributed through registered charities. AHF’s meager fund base was providing modest financial support to the orphans and widows facing economic hardships. The recipients of their aid were mostly the direct or indirect victims of the biggest terror-state this world has ever witnessed. No marks for guessing right!
Since March 2002, the United States has designated eleven branches of AHF as terror financing outfits. These branches, Afghanistan, Albania, Bangladesh, Bosnia, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Kenya, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Somalia, and Tanzania are named on the UN’s 1267 Committee’s consolidated list of terrorists associated with al-Qaida and the Taliban and are subject to international sanctions.
The US Treasury Department announced on 9 September 2004 the designation of the US branch of the Saudi Arabia-based AHF. Its memo number JS-1895 quoted Mr Stuart Levey, then Treasury’s Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence:
“We continue to use all relevant powers of the U.S. government to pursue and identify the channels of terrorist financing, such as corrupted charities, at home and abroad. Al Haramain has been used around the world to underwrite terror; therefore we have taken this action to excommunicate these two branches from the worldwide financial community.”
Although all charges were dropped by a federal judge, inclusion on the 1267 Committee’s list triggers international obligations on all member countries, requiring them to freeze AHF assets.
As a result, in June of 2004, the Saudi government judiciously announced it was dissolving AHF and other Saudi charities and committees operating aboard and folding their assets into a newly created entity, the Saudi National Commission for Relief and Charity Work Abroad.
Sure, Afghanistan, Somalia and to certain extent Pakistan can be classified as ‘conflict zones’ where funds might have eventually flowed into ‘terror activities’. But what about Kenya, Netherlands and Tanzania where these charities were running schools, hospitals, orphanages etc for disadvantaged communities?
Luckily for destitute orphans and widows, AHF came from Saudi Arabia which is governed by a strong and stable administration. However, other charities were not so fortunate. In an attempt to salvage whatever is left of the wreckage of a nation called Palestine, the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) worked tirelessly among orphans, widows and displaced Palestinians. They were accused of channeling funds to the ‘terror network’ run by the one-and-only democratically elected government in the Middle East.
Established in 1988 under the name “Occupied Land Fund” by Shukri Abu Baker, Mohammad El-Mezain and Ghassan Elashi, the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) was a non-profit, tax-exempt under 501(c)(3), charitable trust headquartered in Richardson, Texas. It also maintained branch offices in New Jersey, California, and Illinois. Its name change took place in 1992.
Calling itself America’s largest Islamic charity, HLF was a source of help for needy Palestinian Muslims in Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank. They also provided support to victims after disasters and wars in Bosnia, Kosovo, Turkey, and in the United States (Iowa floods, Texas tornadoes, and the Oklahoma City bombing).
“Our mission,” stated its website “is to find and implement practical solutions for human suffering through humanitarian programs that impact the lives of the disadvantaged, disinherited, and displaced peoples suffering from man-made and natural disasters.” Suspicious of its ‘terrorist’ ties, U.S. federal authorities under President Clinton began monitoring the HLF way back in 1996. Less than a week before the brutal 9/11 drama, on 5 September 2001, federal anti-terrorism agents raided InfoCom Corporation, the company that ran the HLF website.
After the accomplishment of phase-I of the 9/11 objectives (injecting big dose of public anger against Muslims), on 4 December 2001, the US administration and the European Union seized all HLF assets and records because of its Hamas connections. It was designated 4 December 2001 and re-designated on 31 May 2002 under Executive Orders 12947 and 13224 as a charity that provided millions of dollars of material and logistical support to Hamas. Adding yet another lie to his presidency, President Bush said at the time:
Hamas has obtained much of the money that it pays for murder abroad right here in the United States. The Holy Land Foundation…..raised $13 million from people in America last year. Money raised by the Holy Land Foundation is used by Hamas to support schools and indoctrinate children to grow up into suicide bombers.
In response to this action, HLF issued a statement saying:
The decision by the US government to seize the charitable donations of Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan is an affront to millions of Muslim Americans who entrust charities like ours to assist in fulfilling their religious obligations.
In the year 2000 alone, HLF reportedly raised over $13 million in donations. During the month of Ramadan, Muslims all over the world give generously in charity, especially towards the end of the holy month. Such actions leave many Muslims worried about their previous contributions, and wondering where the governments consider it “safe” for Muslims to spend in charity.
Loaded with enormous financial and human resources, the US government cooked up a completely fabricated case.
In July 2004, federal authorities arrested five former HLF leaders: Shukri Abu Baker (Co-founder, former President and Chief Executive); Ghassan Elashi (Co-founder, former Board Chairman and Treasurer); Mohammed El-Mezain (Co-founder and former Board Chairman); Mufid Abdulqader (the half-brother of Hamas’s supreme political leader, Khaled Meshal); and Abdulraham Odeh (HLF’s former New Jersey representative).
In a 42-count indictment, these individuals were charged without sufficient evidence of providing $12.4 million over a six-year period, and more than $57 million since the late 1988. HFL repeatedly denied all charges. Its President Shukri Abu Baker issued a statement saying that:
“The Foundation has never provided funds, services, or any other form of support to Hamas or any other group that advocates, sponsors, or endorses terrorism, terrorist acts, or violence in any form or for any purpose…. The principle officers, staff, donors, and volunteers of the Foundation, like most American citizens, reject terrorism, terrorist acts, and the use of violence in any form to achieve political goals.”
Even in an increasingly insane world, there is no dearth of sane voices among non-Muslims. In December 2006, two welfare organizations: the Humanitarian Law Project and the Center for Constitutional Rights jointly petitioned a federal judge to dismiss many of the charges brought against HLF. On 23 July 2007, HLF’s leaders went on trial. Seven principal individuals were charged with twelve counts of providing ‘material support and resources’ to a foreign terrorist organization.
Additionally, they faced thirteen counts of money laundering and thirteen counts of breaching the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), which prohibits transactions that threaten American national security. Strangely, very strangely and more strangely, legitimate Palestinian resistance against Israeli occupation is viewed as a threat to ‘American national security’!
The government action was condemned by virtually all major American Islamic organizations. In a joint statement, several organizations said that:
“Islamic charities in this country help American Muslims fulfill their religious obligation to help orphans and the needy. The frozen assets therefore belonged not to HLF, but to the entire Muslim community. This action is particularly disturbing, coming as it does during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, a time when Muslims make many of their annual charitable donations.”
Like all deceptive and fabricated dramas, the trial against HLF and its former functionaries failed to pass the judicial test. After a two-month trial and nineteen days of jury deliberation, Judge A. Joe Fish declared a mistrial on 22 October 2007 because the jury had been unable to deliver unanimous verdicts and had failed to convict on a single count brought against the defendants.
On November 4, 2007 the Los Angeles Times reported: ‘The nation’s biggest terrorism finance case ended so badly for the government that it has thrown into question the Bush administration’s original order to shut down the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development six years ago.’
Experts found the jury’s inability to come to a definitive conclusion evidence of weakness in the government’s ability to provide clear enough evidence against the charity.
TheLos Angeles Times reported Georgetown University law professor David Cole as saying: “If the government can shut them down and then not convince a jury the group is guilty of any wrongdoing, then there is something wrong with the process.”
George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley said the criminal trial derailed the government’s long-publicized assertions about HLF. ‘From the beginning, the allegations were highly suspect and only got worse,’ said Turley, who has handled a number of national security cases.
Although 200 combined charges were filed against the defendants, the jurors had acquitted on some counts and were deadlocked on charges ranging from tax violations to providing material support for terrorists.
“The decision today is a stunning setback for the government, there’s no other way of looking at it,” said Matthew D. Orwig, a partner at Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal who was United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas. ‘If this doesn’t get their attention, they are just in complete denial,’ he said of Justice Department officials.
US Media Skepticism
Some jurors were skeptical of the government’s case. The Los Angeles Times reported: “The government’s allegations not only proved unpersuasive but engendered skepticism among some jurors. ‘The whole case was based on assumptions that were based on suspicions,’ said juror Scroggins, who added: “If they had been a Christian or Jewish group, I don’t think [the government] would have brought charges against them.”
Deeply embarrassed and humiliated, the US government retried the case a year later beginning 18 August 2008. Prosecutors made several key adjustments. Most notably, they dropped some counts against particular defendants; they called several new witnesses; and they displayed three exhibits which Israeli military officials had received from the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority (PA) of Mahmoud Abbas.
Those exhibits demonstrated that the Fatah, like the US government, clearly considered HLF to be a Hamas funder. Based on this deep rooted Fatah-Israel-US conspiracy, on 24 November 2008, the jury convicted five former HLF officials of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists.
For all this (and more) to achieve, a mega-terror drama was staged in the form of 9/11. We still do not know with certainty who were the real perpetrators. What is clear from Mr Clarke’s assertion above is that the decision of who the real terrorists were and were not was reached without any investigation on the evening of 9/11 itself!
If we believe Bush and Rumsfeld, then the culprits were Al-Qaeda. But the question is can we believe them? Remember those jumbo-lies called Weapons of Mass Destruction? On the other hand, if we don’t believe them, then the finger of suspicion points to Jewish lobby hand-in-glove with neo-cons as they were hoping to be the real gainers of that tragedy. If this is true, then the ‘invisible hand’ starts punishing the real criminals soon.
Unilateral closure of HLF put a lid on resources crucial to the survival of thousands of families living under occupation and constant terror. Managers of these charities were being penalized for their selfless religious obligations and social engagements while recipients of their much needed aid were helpless. Oppressed tend to seek instant justice. But in Islam, patience is an immense virtue. During trials and tribulations, Qur’an assures its followers in these words:
Fala ta’jal alai’him, inna’ma na’uddo lahum addawhich in English roughly means ‘Do not rush [for a divine punishment] against them. Allah is counting their crimes’ [19:84].
While innocent social activists working tirelessly for truth and justice were being falsely convicted, the Creator of all human beings was keeping His above promise. Within weeks of HLF travesty of justice came the divine knock on the doors of real terrorists.
Uncle Bernie and His Ponzi Schemes
In the beginning of December 2008, Bernard Madoff, former Chairman of NASDAQ and a star fund manager on Wall Street, admitted to his two sons Mark and Andrew that his fund management business is nothing but a ‘big fraud’. Madoff who was referred to as ‘Uncle Bernie’ by friends and investors reportedly managed (or mismanaged) up to US$ 50 billion.
The fraud he ran uninterrupted for over 30 years was a simple ‘Ponzi’ scheme named after a Boston-based, 1920s Italian-American fraudster Charles Ponzi. Madoff took money from a new and hand-picked group of investors to pay to old investors as profit on their ‘investments’.
In reality he was making no profit or very little compared to what he was returning to his clients as profits. The perpetuation of the scheme requires an ever-increasing flow of money from investors in order to keep it going. This deceptive game was over when the current financial crisis necessitated larger cash calls from some of his investors and Uncle Bernie had no money to return!
But the truth is, this ‘big fraud’ is essentially a tiny part of a much bigger fraud nearing its end. Yes, I mean the mammoth-ponzi scheme called free market capitalism. In this bigger fraud, many more Madoffs operating from the world financial capitals are holding the entire humanity hostage. The universal definitions and values have been turned on their head. Victims are being criminalized and criminals are being victimized. In this devastating dispensation, deceit is called ‘truth’. Yes in Sanskrit language, Satyam means truth.
This NASDAQ-listed and fourth largest Info-tech giant was perpetuating for many years the largest corporate fraud in India’s history. By showing false profits, inflated margins and reserves on its books, this untruthful ‘truth’ has put the life of over 50,000 white-collar Satyam employees at stake. This is just the beginning!
Being a pillar of Jewish community in the US, 70-year old Uncle Bernie was entrusted with billions of dollars by many Jewish charities. The money which we know Jews have successfully used to buy and influence global media, politicians and financial institutions in order to sustain and strengthen their illegal occupation of Palestine including Al-Quds, the third holiest place of Islam.
Ironically, even after committing such a big crime, he has only been put under ‘house arrest’ in his plush Manhattan apartment! Apart from self-admission, his two sons are witness to his mega deceit. Still no prison term? Yes, because he is a Jew and not a terrorist (read Muslim!).
After this divine intervention exposing the real terror financier, The Jewish Funders Network, an alliance of 900 Jewish charities convened a meeting of its members on 23 December 2008 to workout strategies on how to react to the crisis.
According to a recent Financial Times report by Deborah Brewster ‘several charities have shut down completely after loosing their endowment; others are racing against the clock to raise funds to replace those lost.’ However, non-profit insiders admit that it would be almost impossible for charities to find extra funding in the current economic environment.
The present economic crisis also having its origin in deceptive Jewish lending and speculation practices. Based on interest, deception and speculation, the worldwide financial markets are collapsing like a pack of cards.
The Los Angeles Times reports another fraud in which Federal prosecutors secured guilty pleas on 27 June 2008 from a Tel Aviv-based banker and a New York-based rabbi for their involvement in a decade-long international tax-evasion scam centered on an Orthodox Jewish sect that defrauded the U.S. government of millions in tax revenue.
Joseph Roth, 66, an account manager for Israel-based United Mizrahi Bank, and Rabbi Moshe Zigelman, 60, admitted to their parts in a scheme in which people made bogus tax-exempt donations to charitable organizations related to Spinka, an Orthodox Jewish sect.
International Herald Tribune of 28 June 2008 reported that Roth is among eight people and five charities indicted by a grand jury in 2007. Most of US$ 33 million money was shuttled back to donors through an elaborate underground money transfer network in Israel, New York and Los Angeles’ downtown Jewelry District. New York-based Zigelman was executive assistant to Grand Rabbi Naftali Tzi Weisz, the sect’s leader, who was arrested in 2007 in relation to the scheme. Roth admitted in court that he established secret overseas bank accounts and bogus loans to facilitate the transfer of funds.
Interestingly, many Jewish charities that did not invest with Madoff were recipients of funding from those charities that did invest with him, generating ripple effect from his fraud.
One such charity that is indirectly hit is Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies. Its President Jeff Solomon admits ‘this is the ultimate triple header.  Numerous generous high-end donors have lost their asset base;  foundations [which were the sources of funding charities] have lost their investments, and  the charities have themselves directly lost money.’ One such victim, The Philoctetes Center said the foundation that funds it held large investments with Madoff and those funds ‘literally vanished overnight.’ Solomon concludes that ‘the impact is unprecedented. There is no question there will be more closures.’
Role of Jewish Charities
The list of Jewish charities that have closed is growing daily. Picower Foundation with US$ one billion investments has closed. Lappin Foundation, which funded Jewish cultural missions; Jeht, a New York-based foundation and the Chais Foundation, which gave to Jewish causes (may be, just may be like funding recent Mumbai attacks so that Pakistan could be punished). This California-based charity group invested entirely with Madoff, and was forced to shut down operations after years of donating some $12.5 million annually to Jewish causes in Israel and Eastern Europe.
Wayne Madsen Report found an interesting link: Chais donated to an entity called the Washington Institute in McLean, Virginia, which also received funding from the Monterey Fund of Brooklyn, NY, which lists its address as BEAR STEARNS & CO., 1 METROTECH CENTER, 9TH FL., BROOKLYN, NY 11201-3831.
Chais was active in marshaling support for Israel among 18-25 year old Jews in the former Soviet Union (also recruitment for Mossad activities, perhaps?). In other words, Chais was engaged in blatant political activities disguised as 501(c) 3 ‘educational purposes.’ Recipients of Chais funds also attacked former President Jimmy Carter, as well as Professors Mearsheimer and Walt over their book ‘The Israel Lobby.’ There is a Chais Family Auditorium at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya, Israel. Herzliya, north of Tel Aviv, is the headquarters for the Mossad.
The present stalemate in Syrian crisis is also part of the same US policy i.e. block the finances and support to resistance groups that do not do the US bidding.
In the midst of doom and gloom surrounding our lives, we are obligated to remind each other of a more comforting assurance from our Creator which is continuously proven correct for more than fourteen centuries:
“Yuree’doona ley udfi’oo noor’allahi bey afwa’hihim; wallahu mu’timmo nurihi walao karey’hal kafiroon.”
(They wish to extinguish the light of Allah by blowing air from their mouth. However, the light will eventually prevail no matter how unacceptable this is to non-believers’! [Qur’an – 61:8]