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August 23, 1991 - Image 37

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-08-23

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

TERNATIONA

BACKGROUND

Artwork by Alexander Hunter of the Washington Times. Copyright° 1991, Alexander Hunter. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate.

Abu Nidal Banked Here

The notorious terrorist financed his operations
under the nose of British intelligence.

HELEN DAVIS

Foreign Correspondent

T

he tentacles of scandal
emerging from the
disgraced Bank of
Credit and Commerce Inter-
national have now wrapped
themselves around Britain's
accident-prone MI5 intel-
ligence agency.
According to recent revela-
tions, the agency failed to
detect that the most noto-
rious international terrorist,
Abu Nidal, was financing
his operations against Israel
and the West from a branch
of the bank in the heart of
London for at least six years.
Among these operations
was the attempted
assassination of former
Israeli Ambassador to Lon-
don Shlomo Argov, who was
shot by members of Abu
Nidal's Fatah Revolutionary
Council on June 3, 1982.
Not only did MI5 fail to
apprehend Abu Nidal during
at least two visits he made to
the bank in London, but he

was actually provided with a
police escort to London's
Heathrow Airport on one oc-
casion when he was late for
his flight.
Abu Nidal, nom-de-guerre
of 45-year-old Sabri al-Bana,
broke with the mainstream
PLO leader Yassir Arafat in
the early 1970s to launch his
own radical movement,
which has at different times
enjoyed the protection and
patronage of Iraq, Syria and
Libya.
Over the past 20 years,
members of the Fatah Revo-
lutionary Council have
perpetrated some of the most
spectacular outrages, in the
course of which about 1000
people have been killed and
Abu Nidal's name has
become synonymous with
international terrorism.
The man who lifted the
veil on his London exploits is
Ghassan Ahmed Kassem,
who was described in a
British television in-
vestigative report as "one of
BCCI's star performers"
who helped to acquire in-

fluential Middle Eastern
clients.
Mr. Kassem, whose revela-
tions were made in the BBC-
TV Panorama program,
recalled the morning in 1981
when the manager of BCCI's
Park Lane branch told his
staff to "look busy" because
he was expecting an impor-
tant prospective client.
The new customer, Samir
Hassan Najmeddin, was in-

How long did
British intelligence
know about Abu
Nidal's operation in
London?

troduced as a representative
of the Iraqi government, but
he was in fact the financial
mastermind of the Fatah
Revolutionary Council, the
man who made the deals
that financed Abu Nidal's
terrorist network.
Later that day, Mr.
Kassem was sent to the Ox-
ford Street branch of a

British bank with a letter
authorizing the transfer of
Mr. Najmeddin's account to
BCCI — in the range of $50
million.
Within three months, the
money was being used to fi-
nance an arms deal with
Iraq, and Mr. Najmeddin,
evidently satisfied with the
bank's discretion, began us-
ing it to finance other deals.
Mr. Najmeddin's business
was to scour the world for
the most sophisticated
weapons, explosives and
electronics, using letters of
credit provided by BCCI, for
Abu Nidal.
The valued client was
given every facility by the
bank, and Mr. Najmeddin
was effectively able to coor-
dinate Abu Nidal's many in-
terests from inside the Park
Lane branch of BCCI.
"It was like his home,"
said Mr. Kassem. "He would
come in quite early every
morning, around 8:30, and
sometimes the telex operator
would spend the entire day
sending his telexes, which

for some reason were coded
— he used numbers and
letters which did not make
sense at all."
One day, Mr. Najmeddin
asked Mr. Kassem to host an
associate, Shakar Fahran, at
a restaurant in London's
West End: "He introduced
himself as an Iraqi based in
Kuwait and said his main
line was electronics — com-
puters, copiers, the latest
equipment. He was quite an
educated, well-spoken in-
dividual."
Shakar Fahran was, in
fact, Abu Nidal and that
afternoon, the terrorist
leader also opened a bank
account at BCCI with a de-
posit of nearly $400,000. At
the same time he was given
power of attorney over Mr.
Najmeddin's accounts,
which contained deposits of
more than $30 million.
The bank not only looked
after Abu Nidal's financial
affairs, but also his personal
needs, escorting him on
shopping expeditions for
boxes of expensive cigars

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

37

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