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Swiss Probe Illustrates Difficulties in Tracking Al Qaeda's Cash
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post - Washington, D.C.
Subjects: Investigations; Raids; Transfer of funds; Terrorism; Forensic accounting
Author: Williams, Daniel
Date: Nov 12, 2001
Start Page: A.19
Section: A SECTION

In part, the difficulty in pinning down a Swiss connection lies in a regulatory gap. Intelligence officials say Swiss law does not specifically deal with Al Taqwa's activities. It is not a bank, so auditing and other requirements for banks operating in Switzerland do not apply. If Al Taqwa were using the hawala system to deal with clients, neither the origin of funds nor their destination would be easily ascertained. "No one in Switzerland asks why anybody receives money. It's just not done. The whole economy depends on such activities," said a Swiss intelligence official.

Lugano lies on a lakeshore in southern Switzerland, and as a result of a peculiar historical twist, it is an especially popular locale for money laundering, intelligence officials say. Nearby lies the town of Campione d'Italia, an enclave surrounded by Swiss territory but under Italian sovereignty. It was ceded to a bishop of Milan in the 8th century and has remained Italian ever since. In the 1930s, Benito Mussolini granted the town permission to open a casino. Because residency requirements in Italy are lax, foreigners can reside in Campione and do business in Lugano, where business rules are loose, but residency requirements strict.

Another Al Taqwa official, Swiss citizen Ahmed Huber, who converted to Islam and changed his first name from Albert, was also named in the U.S. list. Huber said on Swiss television that he had never met bin Laden, but had encountered "members of his entourage" at Islamic conferences in the Middle East. He said he did not know exactly who they were because they "all traveled under false names." Huber also said Al Taqwa made charitable contributions to Muslim development projects abroad.

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