Report: US drops “terrorist funding” charges against Syrian firm to avoid provoking Damascus
Despite the United State’s tough economic sanction campaign against Syria, officials are suggesting that investigations implicating the Arab state in terrorist funding schemes have been abandoned in order to avoid antagonizing the Syrian government.
In a recent article published by Newsweek, it is revealed that the US government backed out of a plan to freeze the assets of a Syrian-owned textile business located in Germany for having connections to Osama Bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda Network.
After the German authorities raided the Tatex textile plant in Hamburg, local prosecutors began preparing their case and the US considered freezing the firm’s bank accounts, as it had done in dozens of other companies suspected of financing terrorism. Tatex officials have repeatedly denied any connection with terrorism or Syrian intelligence.
Then last summer, the German government quietly closed the investigation and decided against prosecuting the company and the US never touched Tatex's assets, Newsweek reports in the current issue.
Some US and German officials suggest that both countries decided not to proceed with legal action against Tatex to avoid antagonizing the government of Syria. Since the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, Bush administration officials say that Syria has sometimes been a helpful partner in anti-terror efforts. Officials say Syria has frozen millions of dollars in assets that former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had stashed in Syrian banks and Syrian officials boast that they have opened their Al-Qaeda files to the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
In return, some hard-liners say, the US and its allies have rewarded Syria by downplaying its unsavory activities. Germany's national-security adviser, Ernst Uhrlau, says that politics played no role in the decision to drop the Tatex case. Publicly, German officials say there was not enough evidence to prosecute. But other officials close to the case say the government insisted the dossier be closed, for what one called "foreign-policy reasons."
For years, German authorities had been keeping close watch on Tatex. According to German police reports shown to Newsweek, one of the firm's past employees appeared to have close connections to Bin Laden's personal secretary. Another, Mohammed Haydar Zammar, was believed to have recruited Muhammad Atta and the other September 11 hijackers in Hamburg, then sent them to Afghanistan, where they planned the attacks with Bin Laden.
Sources close to the case told Newsweek that Syria had been secretly involved with the company for years. In 1999, a former Syrian intelligence chief named Mohammed Majed Said bought about 15 percent of Tatex's stock. Some German investigators speculate that Syrian intelligence may have infiltrated the company as a cover to spy on Hamburg's community of extremist Syrian exiles. Others believe the company was used as a front to illegally acquire high-tech equipment from the West. — (menareport.com)
© 2004 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)