Jerry Seper, Wash. Times, Mar. 26
The terrorist organization Hamas invested millions of dollars during the past decade in real-estate projects nationwide, including in suburban Maryland, as part of a scheme to raise cash to fund acts of terrorism, records show.
The investments — involving the construction of hundreds of new homes, including many in Oxon Hill — were handled through BMI Inc., a defunct Secaucus, N.J., investment firm founded by Soliman S. Biheiri, an Egyptian and Hamas supporter, according to a newly released sentencing declaration by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
In the declaration, ICE senior agent David Kane said Biheiri, sentenced in January to a year in prison on immigration violations, used the firm beginning in 1991 to raise “large amounts of money” through investments and as a front to route cash from more than 100 bogus Hamas charities and businesses, most of which operated in Virginia.
The Oxon Hill investment included a project known as Barnaby Knolls, financed by a BMI subsidiary BMI Real Estate Development Inc., the declaration said. Begun in January 1991, it involved the construction of 57 homes in the working-class Prince George’s County neighborhood.
ICE agents refer to the project as “Hamas West,” although no one living in the subdivision has been identified as being involved in the scheme or with the terrorist organization that is pursuing a Palestinian state.
One of the principle BMI investors in the Oxon Hill project, according to the Kane declaration, was Mousa Mohammad Abu Marzook, the self-proclaimed political leader of Hamas detained by U.S. authorities in 1995 on suspicion of being involved in terrorist activities. He later was expelled to Jordan, where he was deported to Syria for his ties to Hamas.
The U.S.-educated Marzook, who had lived in Falls Church, has been named by Israeli authorities on charges of murder, attempted murder, manslaughter and conspiracy in truck and bus bombings in Israel that killed 14 and injured 56. He also is accused of ordering the killing of 37 others in Hamas attacks in Israel.
According to the declaration, Marzook told a confidential U.S. Customs Service informant during a May 1991 meeting in Ruston, La., that he “has and currently is investing money with BMI,” including a real-estate project in Oxon Hill, where he intended to build “more than 56 homes.” In the tape-recorded conversation, Marzook noted that the suburban Maryland site was close to Washington.
According to the declaration, more than $1 million was invested by BMI in various real-estate projects, many of which are described but not identified.
The declaration said hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in the projects was returned to investors or were re-invested in other real-estate developments, with much of the cash being routed through banks in Virginia and New Jersey to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. It said significant amounts of cash obtained in the real-estate ventures were used “in furtherance of Hamas terrorist operations.”
It was a U.S. investigation into Marzook’s financial activities in this country that led to Biheiri, BMI and Ptech, a Boston-based computer software firm raided by customs agents in December 2002, authorities said. They said Biheiri and Yasin Qadi, a key BMI investor, were the primary Ptech financiers.
Qadi, a Saudi multimillionaire, was listed by the Treasury Department in 2002 as a terrorist and is thought by authorities to have diverted millions of dollars to Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network through various charitable organizations.
Biheiri was a key figure in a scheme using private companies and interrelated Islamic charities operating out of business fronts in Herndon and Falls Church to divert millions of dollars to global terrorists, including Hamas and al Qaeda.
In 2002, federal agents raided 14 Islamic businesses in Virginia, seizing computers, bank statements and other documents in a customs investigation known as “Operation Green Quest.” That probe focused on what authorities called a “financial relationship between” BMI and a Herndon corporation Sana-Bell Inc.
Authorities said Sana-Bell existed to generate funds for a Falls Church-based charity known as the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO). In an affidavit filed in connection with the Green Quest investigation, Mr. Kane said the CIA listed the IIRO as having “extremist connections” to Hamas and Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya, the Egyptian terrorist organization that served as a precursor to al Qaeda.
Hamas was designated by the State Department as a terrorist organization in 1991. Although the number of hard-core members is unknown, supporters and sympathizers have been placed in the tens of thousands. Much of its fund raising takes place in the United States.