Treasury official: Gulf states moving to cut off terrorist financing

Treasury official: Gulf states moving to cut off terrorist financing

A U.S. Treasury official on Thursday said donors located in the Gulf remain an important source of revenue for al Qaeda, but that the U.S. and regional allies were "making strides" in cutting off that financing. 

"Donors located in the Gulf have traditionally been an important source of revenue for AQ. This remains the case, but we are making strides in cutting off their financial networks," Daniel Glaser, assistant secretary for terrorist financing at the U.S. Department of Treasury, said at a hearing. 

ADVERTISEMENT

He said the Gulf countries have taken a wide range of actions, and called Saudi Arabia a "regional leader" in combating terrorist financing, amid suspicions in Congress the kingdom is not doing enough to choke off support for terrorists. 

"All Gulf countries have now passed counter-terrorism laws that criminalize terrorist financing, and have enhanced financial controls across the charitable sector to ensure that funds intended for humanitarian objectives do not benefit terrorist activity," he said. 

"In particular, Saudi Arabia has emerged as a regional leader within the Gulf and has joined us ina targeted designations," he said. 

Still, Glaser said despite progress, there is "more work to be done" to ensure the entire Gulf financial system is a hostile environment to al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations, particularly to Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s branch in Syria.

Criticism of Saudi Arabia has mounted in recent weeks on Capitol Hill, after one of the authors of a congressionally commissioned report on the 9/11 terrorist attacks called for the declassification of 28 pages he says show that the kingdom was involved. 

Saudi Arabia, expecting criticism at the hearing, had even arranged a briefing with a top official a day before to brief reporters on its efforts to counter terrorist financing. 

"We’ve prevented terrorism finance through limiting charity collection and fundraising in Saudi Arabia for any purposes, through the bank accounts or licensed agencies or inside their premises," said Gen. Mansour Al-Turki, security spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, during a media conference call on Wednesday.

"We established a money intelligence department to monitor and investigate any suspected financial transactions," he said.  

"This led to convicting more than 226 persons in terrorism financing activities, prosecuting more than 240 suspects, freezing and investigating more than 117 suspected accounts, bank accounts, closing all unlicensed charity collection locations," he said. 

Al-Turki acknowledged that there is still a problem, where Saudi citizens' charitable donations were solicited for humanitarian causes but being diverted to support for terrorism.

"People are misled. People are not providing money for terrorism. People actually are misled by individuals from all over the region through ... social media, through TV stations, through the internet," he said. 

Al-Turki also said Saudi Arabia has also been a "major target" of terrorists attacks by al Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. He said the country has faced 26 terrorist attacks in the last two years, which have killed more than 200 citizens and policemen. 

"We are determined to defeat it and prevent terrorists from using any Saudi resources in their terrorism," he said.