Saudi Arabia dismantled a jihadist financing network with three Spaniards | Spain

The Riyadh authorities found large sums of money and proof of payment at the home of those arrested. hawalathe system of transferring funds between individuals based on trust that is sometimes used by terrorist groups, according to researchers.

The three Spaniards involved were captured by the Saudi Terrorism Investigation Department (GID) and accused of jihadist financing. They were in prison last month and waiting for the Islamic country’s justice to decide whether to send them to trial under the Saudi terrorism law or release them on conditional release. In the last year, Spanish consular officials have assisted these detainees in the prisons of Riyadh and Jeddah, according to sources close to the investigation.

The information about the operation in Saudi Arabia is part of a police report dated last November and integrated into the jihadist financing investigations being investigated by Central Court 6 of the National Court. The main representative of Islam in Spain, who was arrested and released in 2021, is at the epicenter of this case as he is one of the main people under investigation.

A key player in the Spanish Muslim community, Adlbi, a 78-year-old Syrian, combines the presidency of the majority Union of Islamic Communities of Spain (Ucide) – a federation that brings together 900 associations – with the leadership of the Islamic Commission (Cie), an entity which manages the activities of Muslims with the Government and the autonomous communities regarding mosques, cemeteries and schools.

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Among the Spaniards detained in Saudi Arabia, T. Saleh, 61, stands out. The Police maintain that he acted as a man of “maximum trust” of the former treasurer of Ucide Mohamad Hatem Rohaibani. And that both had known since 2014 that Muhammed Ben Anis Alsaour, director of the jihadist NGO Al Bashaer, the cover used by the network to hide transfers under an alleged campaign to help orphans, participated in the launch of the Syrian Islamic Council. And that, from this organization, he issued edicts to legitimize terrorist groups.

Through his bank accounts, Saleh sent the money collected in Spain to the head of the jihadist NGO by order of the former treasurer of Ucide, according to the agents.

M. Elzaeim, another Spaniard arrested in the Saudi country, disbursed 3,240 euros to the jihadist financing scheme. At 74 years old, this citizen born in Aleppo (Syria) came under the spotlight of suspicion for asking the former treasurer of Ucide about the evolution of Jaysh al Islam, a militia that collects donations to establish a global caliphate governed by the sharia (Islamic law) and which operates in Türkiye, Saudi Arabia and Syria. Jaysh al Islam is, in turn, part of the network of the NGO Al Bashaer that the plot used to disguise the sending of money, according to the investigations.

Adherence to ‘jihad’ and mistakes of youth

In parallel to the operation in Saudi Arabia, the investigations have discovered new radical connections of those investigated in Spain. The mobile phone of one of them, who resides in Melilla and who was not arrested, but was interrogated in March 2021, contained a two-page handwritten and signed letter in which he acknowledged having traveled to Afghanistan in the 1980s to participate in the jihad during the war against Russian troops. The letter, dated 1983, was sent to a Syrian leader of the Muslim Brotherhood who, after a tour of Jordan, Iraq, Yemen and Turkey, held positions of responsibility at the Eastern Arab Center for Strategic Studies and Civilizations in London.

The investigator, a doctor by profession, narrates in his text that he abandoned the jihadist fight for reasons beyond his control. And, when asked by this newspaper, he justifies the content of the letter like this: “Since I arrived in Spain, in 1984, I abandoned all that nonsense. […] It was a time that I want to forget. […] “I have worked for the Ministry of Justice.”

National Police agents closely monitored a meeting between the latter investigated and the highest representative of Islam in Spain held on August 20, 2020 on the cliffs of Aguadú in Melilla. The meeting ended with a selfie between the two. Officials suspended surveillance for fear of being discovered.

The tracking of social networks and communications from the environment of the president of Ucide provides new clues about the purpose of the transactions. Thus, on February 10, 2012, a person very close to Adlbi wrote on Facebook that he had a contact to send funds to Syria to purchase medicines and “weapons” for the militias of Zabadani (Syria).

Castle, el recidivist

The Police have also proven that the Syrian G. Kalaje (who was sentenced to nine years for financing jihad and generating fictitious credits to provide accounting cover for terrorists) contributed 1,700 euros to the fraudulent campaign to sponsor orphans in Syria.

G. Kalaje was arrested in 2019 in the first phase of the operation that led two years later to the arrest of the main representative of Islam in Spain. The initiative ended with the dismantling of a group that today amounts to thirty people. And that he integrated a network with a presence in Belgium, Italy and Turkey, which allegedly set up a structure to send funds to Syria through the hawala.

The Ucide management denies having participated in a jihadist financing structure and trusts in the file of the National Court case. They maintain that they were unaware that the money collected in Spain (300,000 euros between 2013 and 2021) ended up feeding the coffers of the Syrian Al Qaeda militias, as the investigations maintain.

investigacion@elpais.es

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