Law firms representing victims of the 9/11 attacks in an ongoing legal dispute with wealthy Saudis suspected of financing al-Qaeda have recently turned their attention to two individuals with unique ties to the U.S. government.
Lawyers for victims of the attacks, as well as insurance companies of property owners in New York, have filed a motion of discovery in federal district court in Manhattan targeting the Saudi-owned National Commercial Bank (NCB) and two of its former executives, Khalid bin Mahfouz and Yassin al-Qadi.
Both Mahfouz and al-Qadi have a murky history that includes alleged ties to the CIA, the White House, the Bush family, al-Qaeda, and organized crime on a global scale.
The discovery motion, if granted, would advance the case by requiring both sides to disclose and exchange all available pertinent facts regarding the defendants. The motion comes just days after a circuit court ruled members of the Saudi government are immune from terrorism lawsuits in the United States, a setback in the plaintiffs' case against Saudis suspected of financing al-Qaeda in the years leading up to 9/11. There are some defendants, however, the ruling does not protect, including Khalid bin Mahfouz, Yassin al-Qadi, and the NCB.
Government documents, expert testimony, and media reports dating back several years suggest Mahfouz and al-Qadi have raised millions of dollars for al-Qaeda and other militant groups. Evidence indicates some of the defendants’ activities were sanctioned by the U.S. government.
During the late 1980s Khalid bin Mahfouz was the director of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), a CIA-linked criminal enterprise that became the focus of an international scandal during the early 1990s. Mahfouz paid a $225 million settlement for his involvement at the bank, avoiding criminal charges.
Among other illegal activities, BCCI was involved in laundering drug money, supporting terrorists, purchasing illegal arms, selling nuclear technologies, and bribing political and law enforcement officials—all while serving as front for the CIA.
The CIA used the bank as a major conduit for supporting clandestine operations. As journalist and author Craig Unger described it, “the bank created a template with which to finance covert operations all over the world for an international network of terror.”
The CIA utilized BCCI to funnel millions of dollars to anti-Soviet Islamic fighters in Afghanistan, helping to give rise to the network now known as al-Qaeda. Prior to its collapse in 1991, BCCI was considered to be al-Qaeda’s primary source of funding. Osama bin Laden himself reportedly held accounts at the bank.
According to an October 2001 French intelligence report obtained by the Washington Post, "The [current] financial network of bin Laden, as well as his network of investments, is similar to the network put in place in the 1980s by BCCI for its fraudulent operations, often with the same people (former directors and cadres of the bank and its affiliates, arms merchants, oil merchants, Saudi investors)."
BCCI maintained ties to an oil firm that included current president George W. Bush on its board of directors.
In 1986, the same year Khalid bin Mahfouz became BCCI’s primary investor, Bush joined the board at a small Texas-based oil company, Harken Energy. Soon after, Harken established several lucrative relationships with figures associated with the BCCI network. The connections between Harken and BCCI attracted allegations of corruption and political influence peddling.
Khalid bin Mahfouz has also done business with long-time Bush family friend and business partner James R. Bath.
As early as 1976, Bath was reportedly serving as a representative for Mahfouz in the United States. According to Unger, Bath was the sole director of Skyway Aircraft Leasing, a company in the Cayman Islands owned by Mahfouz. “Through Skyway,” Unger reports, “Bath brokered about $150 million worth of private aircraft deals to major stockholders in BCCI.”
Aircrafts owned by a company in Florida with a similar name as Skyway have recently been implicated in an international cocaine trafficking ring with ties to the CIA. It is unknown if the companies are related.