Almost from the inception of the modern Islamic banking structure (early 1980s), the international Muslim Brotherhood set up a parallel and far-flung offshore structure that has become an integral part of its ability to hide and move money around the world. This network is little understood and has, so far, garnered little attention from the intelligence and law enforcement communities tracking terrorist financial structures.
The fundamental premise of the Brotherhood in setting up this structure was that it is necessary to build a clandestine structure that was hidden from non-Muslims and even Muslims who do not share the Brotherhood’s fundamental objective of recreating the Islamic caliphate and spreading Islam, by force and persuasion, across the globe.
To this end, the Brotherhood’s strategy, including the construction of its financial network, is built on the pillars of “clandestinity, duplicity, exclusion, violence, pragmatism and opportunism.”
Among the leaders of the Brotherhood’s financial efforts, based on early Brotherhood documents and public records, are Ibrahim Kamel a founder of Dar al Maal al Islami Bank (DMI ) and its offshore structure in Nassau, Bahamas; Yousef Nada, Ghalib Himmat and Yusuf al-Qaradawi and the Bank al Taqwa structure, in Nassau; and Idriss Nasreddin, with Akida Bank International in Nassau.
Mapping the network of bank, insurance (takofol) companies and offshore corporations — which are often used as covers to open bank accounts and move money in difficult-to-trace paths protected by bank secrecy laws — should be the focus of far more attention because the network provides a mechanism for funding the Brotherhood’s licit and illicit activities around the globe.
This is of fundamental importance because the Brotherhood has played a central role in “providing both the ideological and technical capacities for supporting terrorist finance on a global basis… the Brotherhood has spread both the ideology of militant pan-Islamicism and became the spine upon which the funding operations for militant pan-Islamicism was built, taking funds largely generated from wealthy Gulf state elites and distributing them for terrorist education, recruitment and operations widely dispersed throughout the world, especially in areas where Muslims hoped to displace non-Muslim or secular governments.”
Almost every major Islamist group can trace its roots to the Muslim Brotherhood, founded in 1928 by the Hassan al-Banna, a pan-Islamicist who opposed the secular tendencies in Islamic nations. Hamas is a direct offshoot of the Brotherhood. Hassan al-Turabi, who offered sanctuary in Sudan to Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda allies, is a leader of the Brotherhood. He also sat on the boards of several of the most important Islamic financial institutions, such as DMI.
Bin Laden’s mentor Abdullah Azzam was a stalwart of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood. Ayman Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s chief strategist, was arrested at age 15 in Egypt for belonging to the Brotherhood. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Ayman al-Zawahiri, “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdul-Rahman, and chief 9-11 hijacker Mohamed Atta, were members of the Brotherhood.
There has been some understanding of the Brotherhood’s relationship to Islamist groups, and of those ties even in the United States. In 2003 Richard Clarke said “the issue of terrorist financing in the United States is a fundamental example of the shared infrastructure levered by Hamas, Islamic Jihad and al Qaeda, all of which enjoy a significant degree of cooperation and coordination within our borders. The common link here is the extremist Muslim Brotherhood-all these organizations are descendants of the membership and ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood.” However, this understanding has not taken root in the intelligence, law enforcement and policy communities, nor has the financial network of the Brotherhood come under intense scrutiny.
Public records show the Brotherhood’s financial network of holding companies, subsidiaries, shell banks and real financial institutions stretches to Panama, Liberia, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Switzerland, Cyprus, Nigeria, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and beyond. Many of the entities are in the names of individuals who, like Nada, Nasreddin, al-Qaradawi and Himmat, have publicly identified themselves as Brotherhood leaders.