Report sheds light on Qatar-owned bank dealings with terrorist-linked groups

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The Qatari-owned Al Rayan Bank, an Islamic bank based in the UK, provides services to organizations linked to terrorism in Britain, according to a report by the British daily The Times.

“Al Rayan counts among its customers a charity banned in the US as a terrorist entity, groups that promote hardline preachers and a mosque whose long-term trustee is a Hamas leader,” The Times reported in its investigation on Monday.

The Times investigation revealed that Al Rayan Bank has several clients who have had their accounts in other banks closed or frozen due to a security clampdown. Although the bank meets all the legal requirements to operate in Britain, at least four of its clients have had their other accounts closed in banks including HSBC, Barclays, NatWest and Lloyds TSB.

The bank is described as an “Islamic bank” that offers Sharia-compliant financial services to customers with branches across the UK in Birmingham, London, Leicester, Manchester, and Glasgow.

According to The Times, the controlling shareholders of the bank are institutions of the Qatari state. Al Rayan is 70 percent owned by Masraf Al Rayan QSPC, which is Qatar’s second-largest bank and has close ties to the Qatari state.

The Government of Qatar directly owns 9.31 percent of Masraf Al Rayan, and owns other shares through state-owned companies such as Qatar Holding LLC (11.9 percent) and the Qatar Investment Authority (4.2 percent), according to data from the stock market analysis site Market Screener.

This is not the first time a Qatari-owned bank has been accused of funding terrorism. Khalifa al-Subaiy, who was convicted on charges of funding and enabling terrorism and is on the UN terror blacklist, was allowed by the UN to withdraw a monthly amount of up to $10,000 from frozen accounts with the state-owned Qatar National Bank (QNB).

Al Rayan’s customers include designated terrorist organizations and controversial groups linked to Hamas, according to The Times.

Using publicly available records, The Times drafted a list of organizations which have an Al Rayan bank account, including pressure groups, charities, mosques, and funders of satellite TV channels.

One group with an Al Rayan account is Interpal, a Palestinian aid charity which has been designated as a terrorist entity by the US Treasury due to alleged funding links to Hamas. The British government identified Interpal as part of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood’s British infrastructure in 2015, and its banking facilities were previously withdrawn by Natwest in 2007 and Lloyds TSB in 2008.

The Nectar Trust, previously known as Qatar Charity UK, also has an account with Al Rayan. The Times claims The Nectar Trust has received more than £37 million ($44.9 million) from Doha-based Qatar Charity and is partners with the Emaan Trust, a group whose leaders have close links to the Muslim Brotherhood, in England’s northern city of Sheffield. The Nectar Trust has been accused of founding pro-Muslim Brotherhood mosques in Europe.

The Times also found an Al Rayan account for an Islamic charity whose leader is banned from the UK. The Islamic Research Foundation International is led by Indian televangelist Zakir Naik, who was banned from the UK in 2010 following a history of controversial comments.

Naik claims that 9/11 was an inside job and has praised Osama bin Laden, saying that “every Muslim should be a terrorist” if it meant fighting the US. Naik’s satellite channel Peace TV has promoted hardliner views including four programs which breached broadcasting rules on hate speech, abuse, offense, and incitement to crime, according to an investigation by the UK regulator Ofcom.

Al Rayan also has links with several other organizations including schools and mosques which have had their accounts closed by other British banks, including the Finsbury Park Mosque, where hate preacher Abu Hamza was based in the 1990s, and charity Helping Households Under Great Stress, which supports “Muslim households impacted by counter-terrorism, national security and extremism-related laws, policies and procedures.”

Abu Hamza was the imam of Finsbury Park Mosque in London, where he preached extremism. He is currently serving a life sentence in prison in the United States, after being found guilty of eleven terrorism charges in May, 2014.

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