Justice Out of Balance
by Stephen Schwartz
AS THE NEW YEAR BEGINS, the latest chapter in the remarkable tale of a rich, 47-year old Saudi subject named Yasin al-Kadi offers many lessons, regarding terrorism, responses to it, and the role and responsibilities of Saudi Arabia in fighting it.
Yasin al-Kadi is a principal in the Muwafaq--or "Blessed Relief Foundation"--which has been officially designated by the U.S. Treasury Department as a global financier of al Qaeda. In 2001, the Bush administration ordered al-Kadi's assets frozen. He was also listed by the European Union as a terrorist.
Al-Kadi is a property investor with a wide reach. At the end of 2002, one of his enterprises, the Massachusetts software firm Ptech, Inc., was raided by the federal authorities. Ptech was said to have been paid millions of dollars by official U.S. clients including the White House, the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Air Force. Late in 2001, al-Kadi was linked to a gem-trading company, Global Diamond, in Southern California.
Just last month, al-Kadi was named (not for the first time) in a Chicago civil suit as a backer of Hamas terrorism in Israel by Matthew Levitt, a leading terrorism investigator at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. That proceeding resulted in a verdict against the Quranic Literacy Institute (QLI), an Illinois entity, for responsibility in the 1986 Hamas murder of an American Jewish youth, 17-year old David Boim.
Levitt, according to the Chicago Tribune, testified that "the paper trail doesn't lie," and that one of the QLI functionaries found responsible for Boim's death, Muhammad Salah, was paid as a Hamas recruiter on American soil, through checks written by Yasin al-Kadi.
And yet Yasin al-Kadi continues to operate unmolested on Saudi territory, even as the kingdom has become the theatre for a new campaign of al Qaeda atrocities. Saudi officials, who claim to be the closest friends and allies of the Bush administration in this fight, are paralyzed when it comes to dealing with one of their own residents.
However, not every governmental institution is so lacking in will. While the United States and European Union guarantee al-Kadi due process--and the Saudi kingdom looks the other way--the small and impoverished Balkan nation of Albania, a Muslim-majority country in which al-Kadi has held extensive assets, is pursuing a consistent and effective campaign against him.
In the latest development, Albanian authorities shut down a construction project owned by al-Kadi, comprising 22 apartments in the capital city of Tirana in December. Al-Kadi had established eight separate companies in Albania, under five different names, as well as 36 bank accounts. Another of his assets, a massive complex known as the "Albanian Twin Towers," was seized while being completed--directly across from the main Albanian government offices.
Meanwhile, Albanian government representatives say they are continuing the search for other hidden al-Kadi properties in their country.
And in another small, Balkan Muslim country with few resources but plenty of incentive to crack down on terrorists, Bosnian officials in September 2004 announced that al-Kadi's involvement in two Bosnian banks, Depozitna Banka and Vakufska Banka, remained blocked.
The lesson? Mighty and rich Saudi Arabia, with blood on the streets of its cities, pleads helplessness in dealing with the terrorists it has spawned. Poor, obscure Albania acts with precision and dedication to shut down activity by the same terrorists. Thus, we learn who our real friends are, among Muslim countries.
Oh, and Albania, which has a small military establishment, has also committed 71 troops as peacekeepers in Iraq. Sometimes the smallest gestures speak more loudly than the most exaggerated rhetoric--especially when the latter originates in Riyadh, capital of the Saudi kingdom.