Yaqub Mirza acted on behalf of a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) named Yassin Al-Qadi and managed foundations accused of terror funding, and gave money to GOP power broker Grover Norquist’s Islamic Free Market Institute. His colleagues at Amana Mutual Funds have further connections to the GOP: Jamal al-Barzinji was a client of Janus Merritt, a firm founded by Norquist and David Safavian, a former high-level Bush administration figure who went to jail over his role in the trial of corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Talat Othman, another Amana trustee, gave a benediction at the 2000 GOP convention and once sat on the board of George W. Bush’s Harken Energy. In private, according to the Wall Street Journal, U.S. officials accuse Mirza and his partners of having Al Qaeda ties. Mirza is also the link between two of the biggest raids in the most intense terror financing investigation in American history. One raid was on Ptech, a Massachusetts software company with major government contracts, funded by a SDGT. Mirza sat on Ptech’s board. The second raid targeted Mirza’s home and an office building at 555 Grove Street in Herndon, Virginia, that—according to the affidavit authorizing the raids—houses dozens of Muslim non-profits and companies that share officers and launder money for eventual dispersal to terrorists in the Middle East. Mirza was central to this investigation; he is an executive or director at many of these organizations.
The Massachusetts and Virginia raids are usually mentioned separately, but there are two major connections. First, not only did Mirza advise Ptech, but one of his Virginia companies, Sterling Advisory Services, controlled something called “Ptech Fund LLC.” Second, a New Jersey bank called BMI held millions of dollars in Grove Street investments, leased IT equipment to Ptech and arranged for investment company Sarmany Ltd to put another $5 million into the software company.
According to the Wall Street Journal, in 1999 a BMI employee told the FBI that the company financed the bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa in 1998. The bank, which eventually collapsed, was a conduit for two bin Laden brothers, as well as Hamas leader and SDGT Musa abu Marzook.
One of BMI’s founders, Yassin Al-Qadi, was a fundraiser for Osama Bin Laden associate and SDGT Abdul Latif Saleh. Al-Qadi first met Bin Laden in the 1980s, and in October 2001 Al-Qadi was accused of funneling $3 million to him through the bin Mahfouz family’s National Commercial Bank and transferring close to $1 million to Hamas operatives. Al-Qadi fled the US and is now a fugitive.
Another BMI founder, Solomon Biheiri, has been under FBI scrutiny for terrorism ties since 1999. Biheiri sent the proceeds from a 1993 Al-Qadi real estate investment to Hamas operative and SDGT Mohammed Salah. (The feds have yet to put Biheiri away on terrorism charges. They have convicted him twice on minor charges; prosecutors have pushed for steep sentences by alleging that Biheiri led an international terror-financing network, but both times he received one year.)
Before it went defunct, BMI held some questionable investments. The Baraka Group, headed by Saleh Kamel, and the Kuwait Finance House, the financial arm of the Kuwaiti Muslim Brotherhood, invested with BMI. Kamel founded a Sudanese bank that held Al Qaeda accounts; one of Kuwait Finance House’s associates was September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad.
In the 1990s, Biheiri helped a Saudi named Sulaiman Al-Ali invest $3.7 million with BMI. Al-Ali’s money came from the International Islamic Relief Organization, a group that the CIA said funded Hamas. (IIRO also invested in Global Chemical, a Chicago company that was shut down after being accused of laundering money and supporting terrorism.) Shortly after the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, Al-Ali abruptly returned to Saudi Arabia, and the money he’d invested with BMI disappeared. In a lawsuit later filed over the missing funds, Biheiri offered little explanation for the money’s disappearance, other than that he had “mismanaged them.”
Some of Al-Ali’s BMI investments came through his firm Sana-Bell Inc, where Mirza was on the founding board of trustees. Saleh Kamel and another founding trustee, Ibrahim Afandi, appear on the online version of the “Golden Chain,” a document found in Bosnia in 2002 that has been introduced in American courts as a list of Osama Bin Laden’s and Al Qaeda’s top 20 financiers.
Sana-Bell had offices at 555 Grove Street, the central address in the feds’ 2002 raid. Sana-Bell’s articles of incorporation say that upon dissolution its assets go to, among other Islamic organizations, another 555 Grove Street group called the SAFA Trust. (Mirza at one point lived at 11922 Safa Court; the feds raided this house, too.) SAFA Trust and a related Grove Street organization, the International Institute of Islamic Thought, gave financial assistance to Sami al-Arian, a University of South Florida professor convicted on terror charges.
Sana-Bell, SAFA Trust, IIIT, and other 555 Grove Street organizations are part of what David Kane, the U.S. Customs official who wrote the affidavit authorizing the 2002 raids, calls the “Safa Group.” According to Kane, a complex network of financial transactions maintained by this group of companies and charities allowed their profits and donations to end up in the hands of two terrorist organizations, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad-Shikaki.
Mirza served as CEO of Sterling Advisory Services, which controlled many of the 555 Grove Street entities. Sterling Advisory Services controlled something called “Ptech Fund LLC” and Mirza sat on the board of Ptech. Ptech was a Massachusetts software company funded by SDGT Yassin Al-Qadi,. It was contracted to install and manage control system software at the White House and critical government agencies, including the FAA, where it was in operation on 911.
Ptech had several employees and advisors who would later be investigated. Two were involved with Care International, a charity that shares an address with the Alkifah Refugee Center, where the 1993 World Trade Center bombing was planned. Although the company was raided, CEO Oussama Ziade still bragged of White House contracts as late as 2004. When a Ptech whistleblower told the company president that she called the FBI, he reportedly said not to worry—Mirza had contacts high within the FBI. The company eventually changed its name to GoAgile and set up operations in the Middle East.
Mirza is also listed in real estate records in the address (“c/o M. Yaqub Mirza”) of the Heritage Education Trust, which owns 555 and 585 Grove Street. The only explicit purpose listed in The Heritage Education Trust’s tax filings is to assist the Graduate School of Islamic Social Sciences, which shares an office with Heritage in Ashburn, Virginia, and once provided chaplains to the Army. In its filings, Heritage Education Trust lists many “related organizations,” several of which are “Safa Group” entities: Heritage Holding, Inc., Sterling Charitable Gift Fund, African Muslim Agency, The Child Development Foundation, American Institute for Societal Studies, Sanabel Al Kheer, Inc., International Islamic Charitable Organization, International Institute of Islamic Thought, York Foundation, and Safa Trust, Inc.
Heritage’s other activities include buying a house in Herndon at 596 Grant St. (400 feet away from 555 Grove St.) in 1998 for $60,000 and selling it for an even $250,000 in 2002 to the Virginia Electric Power Company. Heritage gave $2,175,000 to GSISS between 2002 and 2004 and loaned $5,000,000 to Marjac Holding in 1996. (It was a multi-million dollar transfer from Safa Trust to Heritage to Marjac that led Customs officer David Kane to accuse Heritage of laundering money.
“Marjac” is the name of another Safa Group entity, Marjac Poultry, where Mirza is a secretary. Jamal Barzinji, Marjac Poultry’s CEO, was a “longtime business associate” of SDGT Youssef Nada, who founded the Al Taqwa bank. Al Taqwa acted as a vast Hawala network, an Islamic sort of Western Union where people can deposit money to be forwarded to other members around the world. Barzinji is also the head of an American Islamic think tank that in May 2006 hosted an event with Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the U.S., Prince Turki al-Faisal, a close friend of President George W. Bush. In 2001, al-Barzinji hired the lobbying services of Janus-Merritt Strategies, a firm founded by GOP heavyweight Grover Norquist and David Safavian, who went on to become the Chief of Staff at the General Services Administration and who was convicted of obstruction of justice in connection with the Jack Abramoff bribery and corruption scandal. That same year, al-Barzinji spoke at the annual conference of the Islamic Society of North America, where he cast doubts on whether Al Qaeda coordinated the attacks of September 11th. “It is not only that we don’t have any proof, but the FBI doesn’t have any proof,” he said. “They are still looking.” (In 2004, Karen Hughes, close advisor to President Bush, spoke at the same conference.)
Customs officer Kane claims that Marjac Poultry was instrumental in the laundering of terror money. In the affidavit, he showed that Marjac Poultry wrote a $250,000 check to the Sterling Charitable Gift Fund in October 2001 and that Sterling transferred $250,000 over the next five weeks into the account of the SAAR Foundation.
The SAAR Foundation was one of the founding associations in the Safa Group network and had offices at 555 Grove Street. SAAR was founded in Saudi Arabia by the Al-Rajihi family as a charity focusing on health and education. The organization took its name from Sulaiman Abdul Aziz al Rajhi, who was listed on the online “Golden Chain.” Just before the foundation dissolved in December 2000, it sent most of its assets to charities in the Isle of Man, an island in the Irish Sea known for holding the accounts of “drug dealers and money launderers.” Kane said his investigation of the Safa Group’s money trail was stymied when it got to the Isle of Man.
From 1985 to 1990, the assistant to the president of SAAR was Abdurrahman Alamoudi, who is now serving 23 years in prison for terrorist funding and involvement in a Libyan plot to assassinate the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. Alamoudi’s wide-ranging experience includes fundraising in the United States for Al Qaeda and a stint as a consultant for the Pentagon. He also helped found the high-profile American Muslim Council, under whose auspices he appeared at a prayer service with President Bush. Alamoudi also provided $10,000 in seed money to the Islamic Free Market Institute, which was founded by Khaled Saffuri, a former Alamoudi deputy at AMC, and Grover Norquist, close friend of corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff and George Bush. (According to Saffuri, the Islamic Free Market Institute returned Alamoudi’s contribution in 2001.)
The Amana Mutual Fund, founded by Mirza in 1986, has hosted Safa Group entities as well as a former colleague of George W. Bush on its board of trustees. Marjac CEO and Janus Merritt client Jamal al-Barzinji once sat on the board. Samir Salah still sits on the board of Amana. Salah was a director of the Taibah International Aid Association, whose Bosnian branch was labeled SDGT by the U.S. Salah founded Dar al-Hijra, a Virginia mosque that is known for radical Wahhabi preaching and was visited by two 9/11 hijackers. He also set up and managed a branch of Bank al Taqwa, which was used by Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden. The U.S. shut down the bank in November 2001.
Current Amana trustee Talat Othman was the founding chairman of Grover Norquist’s Islamic Institute, and he gave a benediction at the 2000 GOP convention. In the late 1980s, Othman was handpicked to sit on the board of George W. Bush’s Harken Energy by a stockholder named Abdullah Taha Bakhsh. Bakhsh is a former associate of Ghaith Pharoan, who is a fugitive from charges related to the collapse of BCCI, the largest bank fraud in world history. Bakhsh was also close with James Bath, a friend of George W. Bush from the National Guard, and it was this relationship that led a federal financial crime unit to investigate in 1992 whether Bath was allowing Saudi wealth to influence U.S. policy. (Bath himself was briefly president of an aviation company later implicated in the Iran Contra scandal, and in the 1970s, he represented the financial interests of Salem Bin Laden—Osama’s brother—and Khalid bin Mahfouz, a BCCI director who started a foundation that Treasury accuses of funneling money to Al Qaeda.) In the months leading up to the 1991 invasion of Iraq, Othman met several times with President George H.W. Bush and National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft.
Mirza has never been charged with a crime. He gave $100,000 to families of 9/11 victims and is widely lauded as a philanthropist.