The FBI offered proof it is cracking down on the terror money trail, swooping in on suspected fund-raisers in the Dallas area today and arresting four men they say used a computer firm and a Palestinian charity to funnel money to the terror group Hamas, which has claimed responsibility for a wave of bombings in
Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.
Agents arrested four brothers, Ghassan Elashi, Bayan Elashi, Basman Elashi and Hazim Elashi, who
worked for Infocom Corporation, a computer company based in Richardson, Texas. Ghassan is the vice president of the firm, according to the Associated Press. A fifth brother is already in jail on charges of illegally exporting computer goods to the Middle East.
Ghassan Elashi is the chairman of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development. In December, the Treasury department shut down the self-described charity and seized its assets, accusing the organization of being a North American front for Hamas.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations defended the
foundation at the time proclaiming, “there has been a shift from a war on terrorism to an attack on Islam.”
The FBI raid of Infocom comes one day after a federal grand jury in Dallas handed down a 33-count indictment against the Elashi brothers, Infocom Corporation, senior leader of Hamas, Mousa Abu Marzook and his wife, Nadia, for conspiring to violate U.S. laws that prohibit dealing in terrorist funds. The indictment alleges that Marzook and his wife, a cousin of the Elashi brothers, engaged in a scheme with Infocom officials to disguise Marzook’s capital investment in the company and to continue to receive
profits from Infocom.
In 1995, Marzook was specially designated as a global terrorist whose actions threatened the Middle
East peace process.
Authorities say both Infocom and Holy Land Foundation received their seed money from Marzook. Both organizations share some of the same employees.
The Ghassan brothers are also charged with selling computers and computer parts to Libya and Syria, both designated state sponsors of terrorism.
If convicted, the defendants face maximum penalties of 10 years in prison on the charges of illegal exports to Syria and Libya, 10 to 20 years for money laundering, 10 years for dealing in the property of a designated terrorist, and five years in prison for making false statements. The defendants could also be subject to fines of up to $7.2 million.
“The war against terror is a war of accountants and auditors, as well as a war of weaponry and soldiers. Today’s charges against a senior leader of Hamas are the latest in an aggressive campaign to identify, disrupt and destroy the sources of funding that make terrorism possible,” Attorney General John Ashcroft declared at a press conference announcing the indictments and arrests.
The indictments stem from a multiyear investigation into Infocom and the charity, which was located within the same office park. Ashcroft said evidence was developed with the assistance of a number of the federal and state agencies represented on the North Texas Joint Terrorism Task Force, including the
Internal Revenue Service, the Immigration and Naturalization Service; the Secret Service; the Customs
Service; the Department of State and local police departments.
Former deputy assistant director of the FBI Danny Coulson told Fox News the investigation into Holy Land Foundation dates back to 1994. Coulson said agents involved in the probe were frustrated by
Clinton administration roadblocks because the organization was considered a religious organization.
“That all changed after Sept. 11,” he said.
Ironically, Infocom was first raided four days before the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks against the United States.
The Department of Justice has conducted investigations into terrorist financing in 22 states, secured 23 convictions and worked with the Treasury Department to freeze $112 million in terrorist-related funds.
Ashcroft also announced that material-support-for-terrorism charges are pending against individuals
in Chicago, Portland, Seattle, Buffalo, San Diego and Houston.
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