Illinois Charity Director Linked to Al Qaeda
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 9, 2002 Attorney General John Ashcroft vowed today to find the sources of "terrorist blood money" and shut them down.
Appearing at a press conference in Chicago, the attorney general announced that a grand jury had indicted Enaam Arnaout, director of Benevolence International Foundation, an Illinois-based charity, for channeling money to terrorists. The grand jury charged Arnaout with conspiracy to fraudulently obtain charitable donations to provide financial assistance to organizations engaged in violence and terrorism.
"There is no moral distinction between those who carry out terrorist attacks and those who knowingly finance terrorist attacks," Ashcroft said. "We will ensure that both the terrorists and their financiers meet the same swift, certain justice of the United States of America."
Documents found in the Benevolence International Foundation's Bosnia offices in March, he said, "show the American people and show the world, for the first time, tangible proof of the founding of the world's most dangerous terrorist network and the oath of allegiance its members pledge.
"It is chilling that the origins of al Qaeda were discovered in a charity claiming to do good," the attorney general said.
Benevolence International Foundation is a tax-exempt, purportedly charitable organization with offices in Illinois, Pakistan, Bosnia and other locations, Ashcroft said. The indictment charges that Arnaout operated the charity for more than a decade to support terrorism using contributions from Muslim Americans and others.
Ashcroft said the most disturbing allegation in the case, to him, is that Arnaout deceived Muslims, who are obliged by their religion to donate to legitimate charities.
"It is sinister to prey on good hearts to fund the works of evil," he said.
The grand jury charged Arnaout with one count of engaging in a racketeering enterprise; one count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists; two counts of money laundering; two counts of mail fraud; and one count of wire fraud. If convicted on all the charges, Arnaout could face a maximum 90 years' imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
Arnaout is also charged with co-mingling real charitable donations with contributions given to support armed violence, Ashcroft said.
"In order to deceive donors and to guarantee the success of his operation," he said, "Arnaout is charged with concealing at all times from the government, the general public and a considerable number of donors his relationship with al Qaeda; its leader, Osama bin Laden; and other terrorist organizations."