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The Most Dreaded Man of the United States, Controlled a Long Time by the CIA

by Veronique Maurus and Marc Rock
Le Monde
September 14, 2001
http://www.lemonde.fr/article/0,5987,3216--221921-,00.html
(translated from French, using Google, French version is below)


Recruited by the American agency at the time of the war of Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden knows interior all the networks. Trafficker of weapons and narcotics, the first "total terrorist" manages a multinational of a kind new Oussama Bin Laden has copied a legend from that of the "Old man of the mountain", Master of the fortress of Alamut, in Persia, in the 13th century, and terror of the Crusaders. This spiritual head sent his Hashishim (becoming our "assassins"), to kill all his enemies, often at the price of their life. Osama bin Laden wants to be ascetic, a combatant in the name of the faith, wasting his personal fortune in the name of the jihad, the holy war. There is also a reality, much less noble: that of a businessman handler, administrating a terrorist multinational, trafficker of weapons and morphine, created by the powers which it intends to fight.

A young person still (43 years), certainly believing, but also a specialist in screen companies, virtuoso of financial jugglings, the first "total terrorist".

He is dreaded by the American services information services, but, affirms an observer of the Arab scene, he himself was a insider, controlled a long time by the CIA. Osama bin Laden knows of the interior, the networks, the strings, the folding screens, and has practice as a master of finance. The wife of a rich person of a Saudi tribe, graduate of the University of Jeddah, the young civil engineer was recruited by the CIA in Istanbul, in 1979. The Afghanistan war had just begun and Istanbul was the place of transit chosen by the Americans to forward volunteers to the Afghan guerrillas.

Initially responsible for logistics, Osama bin Laden became the financial intermediary of the weapons traffic, financed equally by the United States and Saudi Arabia, to a total value of approximately 1.2 billion dollar per year. In 1980, he began in Afghanistan where he remained until the departure of the Russian troops, in 1989. He was charged to distribute resources between the various factions of resistance, a key role, eminently political. At the time, he profited from the total support of the Americans and the Saudis, via his friend, Prince Turki Bin Fayçal, brother of the king and head of the Saudi secret service, as well as its family. He transformed "clean" money into "salted" money and also the reverse.

According to Richard Labévière, Radio International France (author of the book Dollars of terror, Grasset), the terrorist apprentice set up a den of opium with his friend Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who reigns in the province of Helmand.

The traffic continued in Khartoum, in Sudan, where it moved in 1992. With a good part of those named the "Afghans", "a secret, strong army of 10,000 men was involved in its camps", according to the director of the CIA Of Khartoum, it ensured the provisioning of Hekmatyar of men and weapons. Helped by its Sudanese lieutenants, it created, around "Osama Holding", a true group with diversified interests: finance, cars, machine tools, chemistry, public works. Thanks to the Bank of the North (Bank Ach-Chamal), it controlled a nebula of companies and nongovernmental organizations which fed the Islamist Sunnite revolution everywhere where it went: Algeria, Egypt, Syria, Asia, etc... At this time, his fortune was estimated at 2 billion dollars. His reputation as "banker of the jihad" was made. He lived up to the reputation, it seems.

In 1994, Saudi Arabia withdrew its nationality from him, without stopping financing of the extreme Islamist networks. It was, for the royal family, an absolute need: guardian of the holy places, it draws its legitimacy only from religion. Osama bin Laden kept contact with Prince Turki. He survives everything, even after 1996, when Sudan, subjected to sanctions of UNO, requested him to leave the country. Even after 1998, when, he become the public enemy number one of the United States, a price put on his head and his bases bombarded. His family disavowed him, at least officially. As for the CIA, this connection is a mystery. The experts on this point diverge.

PROFITABLE TRAFFIC

From Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden continued his profitable traffic and continuous involvement with its combatants. He became the adviser and the friend of the spiritual head of the Taliban, Mohammad Omar. He put his competence in finances at their service, managed their commercial interests by the intermediary of a bank in Khartoum held by his son, and reorganized the opium roads. Installed in a luxurious villa in Kandahar, bin Laden continued to reinforce his terrorist multinational. His organization, Al-Qaida, managed twelve camps and had branches in fifty countries. Osama himself travelled to London, in a private jet, where he met with journalists. In the City, his men invested under cover in electronics, building, and import-export. One year later however, the thread had been tightened and the financial transactions of international terrorism took a turn. In Afghanistan even, bin Laden and his mujahadeen were more discrete. Elsewhere, they operated via a cascade of company screens in Pakistan, in the Gulf States, and of course in places offshore.

Goatskin bottles the interests of its investments and the profit of its traffic, this nebula always profits from the financings of the Middle East, via the Islamic ONG. Or rather, profited. Three weeks ago indeed, a significant Saudi event: Prince Turki, head of the secret service and principal contact of bin Laden, was replaced by another prince, Naouaf, faithful to the Crown Prince Abdullah. The reasons for this change are not known, but the bond of the reigning family with Osama bin Laden seems to have been broken at this time. The pseudo renegade became a real renegade. And all the more dangerous.

Islamist financial investments

In London like elsewhere, the monitoring of the central bank on the moneylaundering operations or the counter-espionage investigations have constrained the activists to be diverted famous, Arab or different establishments, to resort to agencies of transfer of funds, like Western Union or the dispencers of exchange held by nationals of the Middle East. Out of the financial die, two other networks are used by the Islamic extremists to bear fruit on their assets, according to the NCIS, the British organization in charge of the fight against the dirty money. They are the law firms and the accounts offices. The large Anglo-Saxon legal companies indeed offer Islamic investments (in conformity with the precepts of Koran) to large fortunes of the Arab world. According to investigators of the NCIS, they would be looking less at the banks for the origin of the funds.

 

L'homme le plus redouté des Etats-Unis, longtemps entraîné par la CIA...

Recruté par l'agence américaine à l'époque de la guerre d'Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden connaît de l'intérieur tous les réseaux. Trafiquant d'armes et de stupéfiants richissime, le premier "terroriste global" gère une multinationale d'un genre nouveau

Osama bin Laden a une légende copiée sur celle du "Vieux de la montagne", maître de la forteresse d'Alamut, en Perse, au XIe siècle, et terreur des Croisés. Ce chef spirituel envoyait ses Hashishim (devenus nos "assassins"), abattre tous ses ennemis, souvent au prix de leur vie. Osama bin Laden se veut ascète, combattant au nom de la foi, dilapidant sa fortune personnelle au nom du djihad, la guerre sainte. Il a aussi une réalité, beaucoup moins noble : celle d'un homme d'affaires manipulé, gestionnaire d'une multinationale du terrorisme, trafiquant d'armes et de morphine base, instrumentalisé par les puissances qu'il entend combattre.

Jeune encore (43 ans), certes croyant, mais d'abord spécialiste des sociétés écrans, virtuose des jongleries financières, le premier "terroriste global".

S'il est tellement redouté par les services du renseignement américains, c'est, affirme un observateur de la scène arabe, qu'il est lui-même un insider, longtemps entraîné par la CIA. Osama bin Laden connaît, de l'intérieur, les réseaux, les ficelles, les paravents, et pratique en maître les paradis financiers. Fils d'une riche tribu saoudienne (lire ci-dessous), diplômé de l'université de Jeddah, le jeune ingénieur en génie civil est recruté par la CIA à Istanbul, en 1979. La guerre d'Afghanistan vient d'éclater et Istanbul est le lieu de transit choisi par les Américains pour acheminer les volontaires vers les maquis afghans.

D'abord responsable de la logistique, Osama bin Laden devient l'intermédiaire financier du trafic d'armes, financé à parts égales par les Etats-Unis et l'Arabie saoudite, à hauteur de 1,2 milliard de dollars par an environ. En 1980, il gagne l'Afghanistan où il restera pratiquement jusqu'au départ des troupes russes, en 1989. Il est chargé de répartir la manne entre les différentes factions de la résistance, un rôle clé, éminemment politique. A l'époque, il bénéficie de l'appui total des Américains et du régime saoudien, via son ami, le prince Turki Bin Fayçal, frère du roi et chef des services secrets saoudiens, ainsi que de sa famille. Il transforme de l'argent "propre" en argent "sale" puis fera aussi l'inverse.

Selon Richard Labévière, de Radio France Internationale (auteur du livre Les Dollars de la terreur, Grasset), l'apprenti terroriste a mis sur pied une filière d'opium avec son ami Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, qui règne sur la province de Helmand, le grenier à pavot du pays.

Il poursuit ce trafic à Khartoum, au Soudan, où il s'est replié en 1992. avec une bonne partie de ceux qu'on nommera les "Afghans", "une armée secrète, forte de 10 000 hommes entraînés dans ses camps", selon le directeur de la CIA. De Khartoum, il assure l'approvisionnement d'Hekmatyar en hommes et en armes. Aidé de son lieutenant soudanais, il crée, autour de la "Oussama Holding", un véritable groupe aux intérêts diversifiés : finance, voitures, machines-outils, chimie, travaux publics. Grâce à la Banque du Nord (Bank Ach-Chamal), il pilote une nébuleuse de sociétés et d'organisations non gouvernementales qui alimentent la révolution islamiste sunnite partout où elle se développe : Algérie, Egypte, Syrie, Asie, etc. Dès cette époque, on estime sa fortune à 2 milliards de dollars. Sa réputation de "banquier de la djihad" est faite. Elle le rend trop voyant.

En 1994, l'Arabie saoudite lui retire sa nationalité, sans cesser pour autant de financer en sous-main les réseaux islamistes extrêmes. C'est, pour la famille royale, une absolue nécessité : gardienne des lieux saints, elle ne tire sa légitimité que de la religion. Osama bin Laden garde le contact avec le prince Turki, patron des services saoudiens. Il le conservera envers et contre tout, même après 1996, lorsque le Soudan, soumis à des sanctions de l'ONU, le prie de quitter le pays. Même après 1998, lorsque, devenu l'ennemi public numéro un des Etats-Unis, sa tête est mise à prix et ses bases bombardées. Sa famille le renie, du moins officiellement (lire ci-dessous). Quant à la CIA, mystère. Les experts sur ce point divergent.

FRUCTUEUX TRAFICS

Le fait est que, depuis l'Afghanistan, où il est revenu s'installer en 1998, Osama bin Laden poursuit ses fructueux trafics et continue d'entraîner ses combattants. Devenu le conseiller et l'ami du chef spirituel des talibans, Mohammad Omar, il met ses compétences en ingénierie financière à leur service, gère leurs intérêts commerciaux par l'intermédiaire d'une banque de Khartoum tenue par son fils, et réorganise les routes de l'opium.

Installé dans une luxueuse villa à Kandahar, Ben Laden continue à renforcer sa multinationale du terrorisme. Son organisation, Al-Qaida, gère douze camps d'entraînements et a des succursales dans cinquante pays. Oussama lui-même voyage à Londres, dans son jet privé, où il rencontre à l'occasion des journalistes. Dans la City, ses hommes de paille ont investi sous couverture dans l'électronique, le bâtiment, l'import-export. Depuis un an toutefois, le filet s'est resserré et les transactions financières du terrorisme international ont pris un tour plus acrobatique.. En Afghanistan même, Ben Laden et ses moudjahidines se montrent plus discrets. Ailleurs, il opère via une cascade de sociétés écrans installées au Pakistan, dans les Etats du Golfe, et bien sûr dans les places offshore.

Outres les intérêts de ses placements et le profit de ses trafics, la nébuleuse bénéficie toujours des financements du Moyen-Orient, via les ONG islamiques. Ou plutôt bénéficiait. Il y a trois semaines en effet, un événement important a modifié la donne saoudienne : le prince Turki, chef des services spéciaux et principal contact de Ben Laden, a été remplacé par un autre prince, Naouaf, fidèle du prince héritier Abdallah. Les raisons de cette mise à l'écart ne sont pas connues, mais le lien de la famille régnante avec Osama bin Laden semble cette fois rompu. Le pseudo renégat est devenu paria. Et d'autant plus dangereux.

Véronique Maurus et Marc Roche (à Londres)

Des placements financiers "islamistes"

A Londres comme ailleurs, la surveillance renforcée de la banque centrale sur les opérations de blanchiment ou les enquêtes du contre-espionnage ont contraint les activistes à se détourner des établissements renommés, arabes ou autres, pour recourir à des agences de transfert de fonds, comme la Western Union ou les officines de change tenues par des ressortissants du Proche-Orient.

Hors de la filière financière, deux autres réseaux sont utilisés par les extrémistes islamistes pour faire fructifier leurs avoirs, selon le NCIS, l'organisme britannique chargé de la lutte contre l'argent sale. Ce sont les cabinets d'avocats et les bureaux comptables.

Les grandes sociétés juridiques anglo-saxonnes offrent en effet des placements financiers dits "islamistes "(conformes aux préceptes du Coran) aux grosses fortunes du monde arabe. Selon les enquêteurs du NCIS, elles seraient moins regardantes que les banques quant à l'origine des fonds.

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