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Swiss confirm bin Laden bank link

Breaking News Ireland

Swiss authorities involved in the global hunt for terror money have established that both Osama bin Laden and suspected al-Qaida No 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri had links to Swiss bank accounts.

Andrea Sadecky, a spokeswoman for the Swiss Federal Prosecutor's Office, confirmed a report in the Geneva daily Le Temps, which said bin Laden was the beneficiary of an account held in a Zurich branch of UBS, Switzerland's largest bank, while al-Zawahiri held an account at an unidentified Geneva bank.

The Zurich account was opened in 1990 by members of the bin Laden family, one of Saudi Arabia's leading business dynasties, said Sadecky.

Le Temps claimed the family opened the account - with undisclosed funds - to protect its assets in case Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, who had invaded Kuwait, decided to attack Saudi Arabia.

The newspaper said that each of the 55 children of Mohammed Ben Oud Ben Laden - including Osama - was entitled to an equal share of the money it contained.

UBS spokesman Christoph Meier said that bin Laden "has never been a UBS account holder, UBS has never met with him and has never accepted his money or made payments to him".

UBS said the account holders withdrew most of the funds in 1991 and that the bank closed the account in 1997 because it had been inactive for six years.

Meier said that the account was " irrelevant" to the worldwide hunt for al-Qaida's assets launched in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on the United States.

The second account was opened in Geneva in 1989 by al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian who today is one of bin Laden's top surviving lieutenants.

He closed the account in 1993, transferring the 20,000 (28,000) it contained to Britain.

Swiss investigators have asked British authorities for judicial assistance in investigating where the money went, but have so far received no reply.

Switzerland has so far blocked some 15m (21m) in bank accounts suspected by the US of being used for money transfers to al-Qaida.

Swiss authorities are also investigating a Muslim-run financial firm with alleged links to the terrorist network.
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