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Al-Arian trial focuses on money flow

Evidence shows most of the funds coming from Palestinian Islamic Jihad, not going to it.

Published September 2, 2005

TAMPA - Money in. Money out.

That was the theme at the federal trial of Sami Al-Arian and three co-defendants Thursday as an FBI agent reviewed bank account deposits and withdrawals of defendants Sami Al-Arian and Sameeh Hammoudeh between 1990 and 1995.

The two men, along with co-defendants Hatem Fariz and Ghassan Ballut, are charged with raising money for Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist activities in the territories occupied by Israel. Therefore, the money trail is particularly important to prosecutors who must show financial activity relating to the PIJ.

But in the evidence presented so far - except for a small percentage of money that went from the defendants' bank accounts to charities in the occupied territories - the money appears to be coming from the PIJ and other sources in the Middle East - not going to them.

Among the transactions: A $19,985 deposit into the Tampa account of Sameeh Hammoudeh on April 22, 1994, from the account of Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Fathi Shikaki.

Prosecutors say a phone conversation, a week earlier, between Sami Al-Arian and Bashir Nafi (who also has been indicted in the case but is not in custody) alludes to the money: "I begged him to send the 19 he owes the center," Al-Arian tells Nafi, indicating that the Islamic think tank Al-Arian founded in Tampa is dependent upon PIJ money, rather than the reverse being true.

Al-Arian tells Nafi that getting the money will "solve the crisis" at the World and Islam Studies Enterprise, the Tampa "center." A week later, a wire transfer for $19,985 comes from the PIJ to an account of WISE employee Sameeh Hammoudeh's. About 10 days later, Hammoudeh transfers $16,000 into the WISE account and $4,000 into the account of Ramadan Shallah, who also worked at WISE, and went on to become the head of the PIJ 18 months later. The money appears to have been for WISE operating expenses and back salary for Shallah.

In yet another wire-tapped phone conversation between Al-Arian and Nafi in July 1994, the two men talk about money Al-Arian is owed - "16 or 14," says Al-Arian. Then Nafi talks about "80 or 90" that might arrive.

Prosecutors showed an August deposit of $14,937 into the WISE account, from the Republic of Sudan, then a September deposit of $79,979 into the account of Ramadan Shallah. The deposit in Shallah's account came from a married couple in Amman, Jordan.

The evidence provided a look at a round robin of deposits and withdrawals from locations in the Middle East and U.S. to two of the defendants and on to organizations - like WISE, the Islamic Concern Project and the Muslim Woman Society - which prosecutors allege were fronts in Tampa set up to raise money abroad to fund the PIJ.

But, so far, the evidence Thursday did not show a money trail going to the PIJ in the Middle East, though more than a million dollars was deposited between 1990 and 1995 in a Tampa bank account that Al-Arian shared with PIJ treasurer Tasir Al-Khatib. That money, however, went for a variety of purposes, including almost $100,000 for credit card payments, about $55,000 for printing and production and about $70,000 into the WISE account. Also, about $73,000 went into an account of Al-Arian's.

Prosecutors ended the day Thursday by showing receipts for a hospital, orphanage and other charitable organizations serving children in the occupied territories. The receipts were seized in a November, 1995 FBI search in Tampa. The FBI agent summarizing the findings said he was able to match up only about half of the amount on the receipts with "disbursements purported to have been sent to the children."

Tuesday, when the trial resumes, the agent will continue talking about money in and money out, and where it went.

[Last modified September 2, 2005, 02:15:35]

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