June 19, 2002
Al Qaeda Shifted Funds to Gold, Gems, Before Sept. 11
The Washington Post reported dozens of investigators interviewed in Asia, Africa, Europe and the U.S. stated al Qaeda funds were long ago shifted out of bank accounts and into "untraceable gold and precious stones such as diamonds, tanzanite and sapphires." The report ran on June 18.
"It was a paradigm shift in the financial organization that we missed," one European investigator told the Post. "Everyone was trying to find bank accounts in Geneva when al Qaeda was greatly reducing its exposure in the formal financial sector. Now we are finding tentacles into all kinds of precious stones and metals."
The U.S. Treasury Dept. has led an international financial war to halt terrorist funding since Sept. 11, with early successes in blocking bank accounts and freezing money allegedly used by terrorists. But over the past four months, little additional money has been added to the total frozen assets and some has been returned to owners for lack of evidence of terrorist links. Now, "the financial front of the war on terrorism has entered a new phase," said Deputy Treasury Secretary Kenneth W. Dam. He told the Council on Foreign Relations earlier this month that the government's focus is now on "means of financing terrorism outside of the mainstream financial system."
A recent United Nations report on al Qaeda and Taliban money movements also stated al Qaeda "may be diversifying financial aspects of its logistical support by converting parts of its assets into gold, diamonds and other precious stones."
by Peggy Jo Donahue