SAUDI ARABIA ANNOUNCES COUNTER-TERRORISM MEASURES
Press Release - Embassy of Saudi Arabia Information Office
December 3, 2002
The Government of Saudi Arabia today revealed a number of substantial legal and
regulatory changes enacted over the past year to counter terrorism.
Important steps have recently been taken to control charitable funds, prevent
money laundering, and improve multi-lateral cooperation. In cooperation with
the United States and other countries, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been on
the forefront of the war on terrorism. Today's announcement was made to correct
misperceptions about the Kingdom in this area.
"For too long, Saudi Arabia has been wrongly accused of being uncooperative or
ineffective in combating terrorism," stated Adel Al-Jubeir, the Foreign Policy
Advisor to Crown Prince Abdullah. "The unfounded charges against Saudi Arabia
have gotten out of control. We recognize that it is now incumbent on us to more
openly articulate our anti-terrorism policies and actions."
One of the most noteworthy developments is in the area of charitable
organizations. Charitable giving is an important part of Islam and there are
hundreds of legitimate charities throughout the Kingdom. Saudi Arabia has
recently completed a thorough review of its charitable organizations and
has made a number of specific changes. For example, all charities are now
subject to extensive audits to ensure that the funds provided by donors are used
for their intended purposes. In addition, charities whose activities extend
beyond Saudi Arabia's borders must now report and coordinate their
activities with the Foreign Ministry. Saudi Arabia has also established a High
commission for oversight of all charities, and is in the final stage of setting
up detailed Operational Procedures to track all donations to and from the
charities. The Government of Saudi Arabia believes these combined changes will
substantially decrease its charitable sector's vulnerability to abuse by
According to Al-Jubeir, "Probably the most significant new action we have taken
has been in the area of charitable giving. In the past, we may have been naïve
in our giving and did not have adequate controls over all of our donations. As
a consequence, some may have taken advantage of our charity and generosity.
With the new steps we are taking, this is now changing."
Saudi Arabia also announced plans to re-invigorate the joint Counter-Terrorism
Committee with the United States to include, in addition to intelligence and law
enforcement personnel, personnel with financial expertise.
Saudi Arabia has also toughened its laws and regulations regarding money
laundering. Stated Al-Jubeir, "I would like to say that all of our efforts are
new, but the fact is that we have had a very advanced legal and regulatory
framework for our banks and financial institutions for many years. Still, one
can always do more and in recent months, we have augmented anti-money laundering
units in every Saudi bank. We are increasing the resources and training for
Saudi Arabia recently established a Permanent Committee of representatives of
various government agencies to manage all legal and other issues related to
money laundering. And as part of that oversight, the Kingdom has issued new
regulations to prevent money laundering. For instance, Saudi banks are no
longer permitted to open bank accounts for non-resident individuals without
specific approval from the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority.
Other announced contributions include:
· The Kingdom froze the accounts of suspected individuals and initiated
investigations of transactions that the suspects linked to Al-Qaeda may have
undertaken in the past. The information from these investigations has been
shared with U.S. authorities.
· In the summer of 2002, Saudi Arabia and the United States took joint action
and froze the assets of Wa'el Hamza Julaidan, an associate of Osama bin Laden
who provided financial and logistical support to Al-Qaeda.
· Saudi Arabia's intelligence and military cooperation has led to the breakup of
at least 3 Al-Qaeda cells and the arrest of key Al-Qaeda commanders, including
Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the planner of the 1998 Embassy bombings in Africa.
· Saudi Arabia has investigated bank accounts suspected to be linked to
terrorism and froze 33 accounts belonging to 3 individuals and one institution
· The U.S. and Saudi Arabia shut down the Somalia and Bosnia branches of the Al-Haramain
Islamic Foundation. While U.S. and Saudi Arabia jointly determined that the
Saudi headquarters for this private charitable entity is dedicated to helping
those in need, the two governments discovered that the Somalia and Bosnia
branches of Al-Haramain Foundation were infiltrated by evil-doers.
· Saudi Arabia, over the past few years, has helped identify a network of
companies and organizations that Osama bin Laden used to move money around the
world. The companies were located in the Middle East, Europe, Asia and the
Caribbean. A sophisticated network that weaved through more than 25 nations was
uncovered. Today, that network is substantially handicapped.
Stated Al-Jubeir, "The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is committed to fight the scourge
of terrorism and will do so with vigilance and determination for as long as it
INITIATIVES AND ACTIONS TAKEN BY THE KINGDOM OF SAUDI ARABIA IN THE
FINANCIAL AREA TO COMBAT TERRORISM
Following the horrific events of September 11, an international coalition
composed of over 100 nations was formed to combat terrorism. Saudi Arabia is
a full partner in this coalition. The Office of the Coordinator for Counter
Terrorism released a report on May 21, 2002, called "Patterns of Global
Terrorism" which stated:
"The Saudi government reaffirmed its commitment to combat terrorism and
responded positively to requests for concrete action in support of Coalition
efforts against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The King, Crown Prince,
government-appointed religious leaders and official news media publicly and
consistently condemned terrorism."
Since September 11, the government of Saudi Arabia has taken many actions to
fight global terrorism. Following are concrete examples of these actions
drawn from statements made by Saudi Arabian leaders, U.S. Administration
officials, news articles and press releases confirming the efforts on the
war on terrorism by the government of Saudi Arabia.
This summary report covers:
· Executive Summary
· International Cooperation
· Arrests and Questioning of Suspects
· Actions Taken With Regard to Charitable Organizations
· Freezing Terrorist Assets Suspected of Links to Terrorism
· Legal and Regulatory Actions to Combat Terrorism
· Other Initiatives Related to Fighting Terrorism
Saudi Arabia has been a victim of terrorism for more than 30 years.
Al-Qaeda first struck against the Kingdom in 1995. Since that time, Saudi
Arabia has been working with the United States and other friends and allies
to confront this murderous organization. One of the most important elements
in this effort has been the attempt to choke the financing of Al-Qaeda. In
1994, Saudi Arabia froze all of Osama bin Laden's assets. In 1996, the
Kingdom established a joint Counter-Terrorism Committee with the United
States to share information on Al-Qaeda. Following the tragedy of September
11, Saudi Arabia has increased its counter-terrorism efforts with
initiatives such as:
· GREATER OVERSIGHT OF CHARITIES: Saudi Arabia has put new laws and
regulations in place for all charitable groups to ensure that they are not
taken advantage of by evil-doers. All charities must now be audited to
prevent the flow of funds to ends other than charity. In addition,
charitable activities extending beyond the borders of Saudi Arabia must now
be reported to and coordinated with the Foreign Ministry.
· NEW LAWS AND REGULATIONS: Saudi Arabia has further strengthened its laws
and regulations regarding money laundering. The Kingdom has established a
Permanent Committee of representatives of various ministries and agencies to
oversee efforts to combat money laundering. These efforts include strict
new rules concerning the verification of customer identities as well as
restrictions on non-residents' ability to open accounts in Saudi Arabia.
· MULTI-NATIONAL COOPERATION: Saudi Arabia and the United States maintain a
Counter-Terrorism Committee comprised of intelligence and law enforcement
personnel who meet regularly to share information and resources and develop
action plans to root out terrorist networks. Saudi Arabia also maintains
close relationships with the intelligence and law enforcement agencies of
many other nations involved in the War on Terror.
· FREEZING TERRORIST ASSETS: In accordance with the resolutions of the U.N.
Security Council, the Kingdom has not only frozen assets, but also initiated
comprehensive investigations of transactions involving suspects linked to
Al-Qaeda. In March of 2002, the Kingdom and the United States jointly
blocked the accounts of the Bosnia and Somalia branches of Al-Haramein
Islamic Foundation. In the summer of 2002, the two countries again took
joint action, freezing the assets of Wa'el Hamza Julaidan, an associate of
Osama bin Laden who provided financial and logistical support to Al-Qaeda,
and those of the Rabita Trust.
· INTELLIGENCE OPERATIONS: Saudi Arabia has provided extensive intelligence
and military cooperation in the assault on Al-Qaeda. Given the sensitivity
of these operations, disclosure of specific actions or the nature of Saudi
cooperation in these areas has intentionally been limited. However, public
disclosures to date have revealed major Saudi contributions to the breakup
of three Al-Qaeda cells, the arrests of key Al-Qaeda commanders, and the
capture of numerous Al-Qaeda members.
Multilateral cooperation is essential to successfully defeating terrorism.
Saudi Arabia has supported many international and regional efforts through
multilateral and bilateral agreements in the fight against terrorism and is
committed to working closely with the U.S., European, Asian governments and
the United Nations to ensure that information is shared as quickly and
effectively as possible.
Saudi Arabia and the United States maintain a Counter-Terrorism committee
comprised of intelligence and law enforcement personnel who meet regularly
to share information and resources and develop action plans to root out
terrorist networks. Saudi Arabia seeks to strengthen cooperation between
the Kingdom and the United States through reciprocal visits.
Saudi government departments and banks are required to participate in
international seminars, conferences and symposia on combating terrorist
financing activities. Saudi Arabia has also hosted many seminars,
conferences and symposia on combating terrorism. Saudi Arabia is also a
member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) established by the G-7 in
Saudi Arabia has approved, completed and submitted the Self-Assessment
Questionnaire regarding the 40 recommendations of the FATF on preventing
money laundering. Saudi Arabia has also approved and submitted the
Self-Assessment Questionnaire regarding the eight Special Recommendations of
the FATF on Terrorist Financing.
The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) exchanges information on money
laundering and terrorist financing related activities with other banking
supervisory authorities and with law enforcement agencies. SAMA has also
created a committee to carry out a self-assessment for compliance with the
recommendations of the FATF and these self-assessment questionnaires have
been submitted. Saudi Arabia has invited the FATF to conduct a Mutual
Evaluation in April 2003.
ARRESTS AND QUESTIONING OF SUSPECTS
Saudi intelligence and law enforcement authorities have been working closely
with the United States, Interpol and other countries to identify, question
and when appropriate, arrest suspects.
Saudi Arabia has questioned over 2,000 individuals. Many of these people
fought in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion as well as in Bosnia and
A number of suspects are currently detained for questioning and
Saudi intelligence and law enforcement agencies identified and arrested a
cell composed of seven individuals linked to Al-Qaeda who were planning to
carry out terrorist attacks against vital sites in the Kingdom. The cell
leader was extradited from the Sudan. This cell was responsible for the
attempt to shoot down American military planes at Prince Sultan Airbase
using a shoulder-launched surface-to-air missile.
Saudi Arabia successfully negotiated with Iran for the extradition of 16
suspected Al-Qaeda members.
Saudi Arabia asked Interpol to arrest 750 people, many of whom are suspected
of money laundering, drug trafficking, and terror-related activities. This
figure includes 214 Saudis whose names appear in Interpol's database and
expatriates who fled Saudi Arabia.
ACTIONS TAKEN WITH REGARD TO CHARITABLE ORGANIZATIONS
Charitable giving is an important part of Islam and there are thousands of
legitimate charities throughout the Middle East. Since September 11, Saudi
Arabia has conducted a thorough review of its charitable organizations and
has made a number of specific changes:
In March 2002, the U.S. Treasury Department and Saudi Arabia blocked the
accounts of the Somalia and Bosnia branches of the Saudi Arabia-based
Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation. While the Saudi headquarters for this
private charitable entity is dedicated to helping those in need, the U.S.
and Saudi Arabia determined that the Somalia and Bosnia branches supported
terrorist activities and terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda, AIAI
(al-Itihaad al-Islamiya), and others.
In another successful joint anti-terrorism action, the Kingdom of Saudi
Arabia and the United States took steps to freeze the assets of a close bin
Laden aide, Wa'el Hamza Julaidan, a Saudi fugitive, who is believed to have
funneled money to al-Qaeda. Julaidan served as the director of the Rabita
Trust and other organizations.
Saudi Arabia has established a High Commission for oversight of all
charities, contributions and donations and is in the final process of
setting up Operational Procedures to manage Contributions and Donations to
and from the Charities, including their work abroad.
Since September 11, charitable groups have been closely monitored and
additional audits have been performed to assure that there are no links to
New guidelines and regulations have been put in place to ensure that
terrorist organizations cannot take advantage of these charitable groups in
the future. This includes financial control mechanisms.
Charitable activities that extend beyond Saudi Arabia must be coordinated
with the Foreign Ministry.
FREEZING TERRORIST ASSETS AND COMBATING MONEY LAUNDERING
Following the events of September 11, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia took
prompt action on September 26, 2001 and required Saudi banks to identify and
freeze all assets relating to terrorist suspects and entities per the list
issued by the United States government on September 23, 2001. Saudi banks
have not only complied with the freeze requirements but have also initiated
investigations of transactions that suspects linked to Al-Qaeda may have
undertaken in the past.
Saudi Arabia was one of the first countries that took action in 1994 and
froze the assets of Osama bin Laden.
Saudi Arabia has investigated many bank accounts suspected to have been
linked to terrorism. Saudi Arabia froze 33 accounts belonging to 3
individuals that total $5,574,196.00.
Working with the U.S., over the past few years, Saudi Arabia helped identify
a network of more than 50 companies that Osama bin Laden used to move money
around the world. The companies were located in the Middle East, Europe,
Asia and the Caribbean. A sophisticated financial network that weaved
through more than 25 nations was uncovered. That network is virtually shut
Saudi Arabia, as a member of the G-20, approved an aggressive action plan
directed at the routing out and freezing of terrorist assets worldwide.
Saudi Arabia is proud to have been a leader in the development of this plan,
its implementation and key objectives of both the U.S. and international
policies for dealing with terrorism now, and in the future.
The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) instructed Saudi banks to
promptly establish a Supervisory Committee to closely monitor the threat
posed by terrorism and to coordinate all efforts to freeze the assets of the
identified individuals and entities. The Committee is composed of senior
officers from banks responsible for Risk Control, Audit, Money-Laundering
Units, Legal and Operations. The committee meets regularly in the presence
of SAMA officials.
Saudi banks have put in place, at the level of their Chief Executive
Officers, as well as at the level of the Supervisory Committee, mechanisms
to respond to all relevant inquiries, both domestically and internationally.
To ensure proper coordination and effective response, all Saudi banks route
their responses and relevant information via SAMA.
A Special Committee was established drawing from the Ministry of Interior,
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Intelligence Agency and the Saudi Arabian
Monetary Agency (SAMA) to deal with requests from international bodies and
countries with regards to combating terrorist financing.
In September 2002, the United States Treasury Department and Saudi Arabia
took their second joint action and designated Wa'el Hamza Julaidan, an
associate of Osama bin Laden who provided financial and logistical support
to Al-Qaeda and publicly froze his assets.
Even before September 11, Saudi Arabia had taken steps to ensure that its
financial system is not used for illegal activities. The Kingdom signed and
joined the United Nations Convention against Illicit Trafficking of
Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances in 1988. In 1995, Saudi Arabia
established Anti-Money Laundering Units at the Ministry of Interior, SAMA
and Commercial Banks.
LEGAL AND REGULATORY ACTIONS TO COMBAT TERRORISM
The Kingdom has a robust legislative and a strong regulatory and supervisory
framework for banking and financial services. This infrastructure ensures
that banks and other financial service providers remain vigilant and also
have strong internal controls, process and procedures to not only know the
identity of their customers but also have awareness of their activities and
transactions. Money laundering and other suspicious activities are targeted
and all those found violating laws and regulations are subject to severe
financial penalties and imprisonment. Money laundering crimes are high
profile crimes and all cases are referred to a senior court.
SAMA and the Ministry of Commerce issued instructions and guidelines to the
Kingdom's financial and commercial sectors for combating money-laundering
activities. To further strengthen and implement the current regulations, the
Ministry of Commerce issued Regulation #1312 aimed at preventing and
combating money laundering in the non-financial sector.
These regulations are aimed at manufacturing and trading sectors and also
cover professional services such as accounting, legal and consultancy
The Saudi Government has also taken concrete steps to create an
institutional framework for combating money laundering. This includes the
establishment of Anti-Money Laundering units, with a trained and dedicated
specialist staff. These units work with SAMA and law enforcement agencies.
The government has also encouraged banks to bring money-laundering related
experiences to the notice of various bank committees (Chief Operations
Officers, Managing Directors, Fraud Committee, etc.) for exchange of
information and joint actions.
Another major institutional initiative is the creation of a specialized
Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) in the Security and Drug Control
Department of the Ministry of Interior. This unit is specially tasked with
handling money-laundering cases. A communication channel between the
Ministry of Interior and SAMA on matters involving terrorist financing
activities, has also been established.
In 1995, SAMA issued "Guidelines for Prevention and Control of Money
Laundering Activities" to Saudi Banks to implement "Know your Customer"
rules, maintain records of suspicious transactions, and report them to law
enforcement officials and SAMA.
In May 2002, SAMA issued rules "Governing the Opening of Bank Accounts" and
"General Operational Guidelines" in order to protect banks against money
laundering activities. For instance, Saudi banks are not permitted to open
bank accounts for non-resident individuals without specific approval from
SAMA. Banks are required to apply strict "Know your Customer" rules and any
non-customer business has to be fully documented.
Saudi Arabia carries out regular inspections of banks to ensure compliance
with laws and regulations. Any violation or non-compliance is cause for
serious actions and is referred to a bank's senior management and the Board.
Furthermore, the government has created a Permanent Committee of Banks'
compliance officers to review regulations and guidelines and recommend
improvements, and to ensure all implementation issues are resolved.
Saudi authorities have made significant efforts to train staff in financial
institutions and the Security and Investigation departments in the Ministry
of Interior as well as others involved in compliance and law.
Special training programs have been developed for bankers, prosecutors,
judges, customs officers and other officials from government departments and
agencies. Furthermore, training programs are offered by the Prince Naif
Security Academy, King Fahd Security Faculty, Public Security Training City
The Saudi government has established a Permanent Committee of
representatives of seven ministries and government agencies to manage all
legal and other issues related to money laundering activities.
The first conference for FATF outside the G-7 countries was held in Riyadh
at the SAMA Institute of Banking in 1994.
On 28-30 January 2002, SAMA, in cooperation with law enforcement agencies,
banking financial institutions and Riyadh Interpol organized a conference
with the Interpol for the First Asian Regional meeting.
On May 13-14 2002, The Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industry in
cooperation with SAMA conducted an International Conference on Prevention
and Detection of Fraud, Economic Crimes and Money Laundering.
Saudi banks and SAMA have implemented an online reporting system to identify
trends in money laundering activities to assist in policy making and other
OTHER INITIATIVES RELATED TO FIGHTING TERRORISM
Saudi Arabia has publicly supported and extended cooperation to various
international efforts to combat terrorism.
Saudi Arabia has signed a multilateral agreement under the auspices of the
Arab League to fight terrorism.
Saudi Arabia participates regularly and effectively in G-20 meetings and the
Kingdom has signed various bilateral agreements with non-Arab countries.
Every 90 days, Saudi Arabia prepares and submits a report on the initiatives
and actions taken by the Kingdom, with respect to the fight against
terrorism, to the UN Security Council Committees upon their request.
Saudi Arabia has established communication points between the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs and the Permanent Representative to the United Nations.
The Kingdom has supported the following requirements of various UN
resolutions related to combating terrorism:
· Freezing funds and other financial assets of the Taliban regime based on
UN Security Council Resolution 1267.
· Freezing funds of listed individuals based on UN Security Council
· Signing the International Convention for Suppression and Financing of
Terrorism based on UN Security Council Resolution 1373 on reporting to the UN Security Council's committee regarding the implementation of the
Rules and Procedures pertaining to Resolution 1373.
· Reporting to the UN Security Council the implementation of Resolution
Saudi Arabia has also supported and implemented the most recent Resolution
No. 1368 dated 12 September, 2001 related to the financing of terrorist
Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia
601 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, Washington D.C. 20037
Tel: (202) 337-4134 Fax: (202) 944-5983
ADEL AL-JUBEIR HOLDS NEWS CONFERENCE ON FIGHTING TERRORISM
December 3, 2002
"I wanted to make a few comments about Saudi Arabia and the war on
terrorism, and then I wanted to give you an opportunity to ask questions.
I'm sure all of you by now have received a summary of the report that we put
out in terms of the steps that Saudi Arabia has taken in the war against
Saudi Arabia has been a victim of terrorism for the last 40 years. In the
1960s, we had bombs going off in Riyadh. We were able to apprehend the
terrorists who committed it, and we severely punished them."
In the 1970s, our oil minister was hijacked with the other oil ministers by
Carlos, the international terrorist. We have had airplane hijackings. We
have had our embassies attacked. We have had attempts against facilities in
Saudi Arabia. And we pursued the terrorists mercilessly, and we punished
In the 1980s, we also have had attempts against Saudi Arabia. And in the
1990s, Al Qaida struck in Saudi Arabia before it struck in the United
In 1995, the explosion in Riyadh, which resulted in the deaths at the
national guard training mission, was the work of bin Laden. This was before
the embassy bombings in East Africa. There have been a number of attempts
against Saudi Arabia that we were able to stifle with the help of God and
because of the diligence of our security services."
We have been vigilant in trying to choke off the financing for terrorists
and those who engage in terrorism, because we believe that the most
important part in the international effort against terrorism is to choke
them of their financing and to handicap their abilities to do damage to
In the 1990s, we were the first country in the world to freeze the assets of
Osama bin Laden. We did so in 1994."
In 1996, we set up a joint counterterrorism committee with the United States
whose main objective was to pursue Al Qaida."
Since September 11, we have engaged in a number of issues. Whether it
involves the war against terrorism, whether it involves intelligence,
whether it involves financial issues, whether it involves coordination and
cooperation with other countries, we've done that."
If there is a fault that we take credit for, it's that we haven't talked
about it. And this is about to change."
We believe that our country has been unfairly maligned. We believe that we
have been subjected to criticism that we do not deserve. We believe that
people have been misinformed about Saudi Arabia and what Saudi Arabia has
done or frankly that people have lied about what we have done or what we
allegedly have not done."
We have been described as the kernel of evil, the breeding ground for
terrorists. Our faith has been maligned in ways that I did not expect
Americans to ever do so. And people have been able to do that with a
straight face, which I, as a human being, find very shocking."
We are announcing today some of the steps that we have taken both before
September 11 as well as after September 11 in the financial front in the war
against terrorism. And we hope that this will lay to rest the charges by
those who either level those charges out of ignorance or out of malice so
that it becomes very clear to the world that Saudi Arabia has been
instrumental in this war against terrorism."
Ultimately, it is our two countries that are in the cross-hairs of Al Qaida.
Virtually every attack by Al Qaida was either committed against the U.S. or
Saudi Arabia or a common interest of our two countries. And we should keep
that in mind when we look at this organization. And when we look at the
commitment of Saudi Arabia to fight the scourge of terrorism and to bringing
those who perpetrate terrorism to justice."
Now, I'll take a few minutes and talk to you about some of the steps we've
taken. Saudi Arabia, we have a first rate banking system. Our banking system
is probably one of the most solid ones outside of the G-7. We have had
anti-money laundering laws and regulations and procedures in place since the
early 1990s. We have adopted the 40 recommendations of the Financial Action
Task Force, which drew out of the G-7 meeting in 1988."
In Paris, we have adopted the eight most recent recommendations of the
Financial Action Task Force with regards to terrorism financing. We have
asked the Financial Action Task Force to come into Saudi Arabia and give us
an outside assessment of how effective that the implementation of these
points has been. And they expect to do so in the spring of next year. I
believe we are one of the first countries to do so."
We have added "know your customer" laws and regulations to our banking
system so that nobody can open up a bank account and transfer money to a
recipient who receives it in cash. It has to go from one bank account to
another so that we have an audit trail so we can trace where funds go."
We have also put in place a financial intelligence unit that ties our
central bank with the various banks in Saudi Arabia so they have real time
in terms of either new threats or new ways for evil-doers to take advantage
of financial systems or whatever. And I believe we are on the forefront of
countries in doing so."
We have also set up a High Commission for Oversight of Charities, which is
very similar to -- I'll get to this in a second. We set up a High Commission
for Oversight of Charities. The purpose of this high commission is to look
at ways to regulate charities, to help charities put in place financial
control mechanisms and procedures so that people cannot take advantage of
them. We are currently also going through audits of the charities to make
sure that they know what needs to be done."
Our new regulations require charities to have audits. This new department
that will be created, that will grow out of the High Commission for
Oversight of Charities, will have that responsibility."
One of the issues that we didn't have in Saudi Arabia is, we don't pay
taxes. And so as a consequence, we don't file returns. And so when you don't
file returns in your organization, you don't do audits. So it wasn't that
there was laxness in the system, it was just that we didn't have a mechanism
that requires nonprofit organizations to perform audits. Now, we do."
We require our charities who do work outside Saudi Arabia to coordinate
their international activities with the Foreign Ministry so we can help
further guide them and help further work with them on ensuring that funds
are accounted for and do not go to places they shouldn't go."
We do this not to clamp down on charity. Quite the contrary, charity is part
of our faith. As Muslims, we are required to give to charity and to give
generously. And we are glad and grateful and proud that our people do so."
What we want -- our desire is to ensure that the donors who donate funds to
charities are assured that those funds go for the purposes that they're
intended for. Our desire is to ensure that our charities are vigilant and
are not in a position where people take advantage of them because they may
or may not be aware of certain procedures. So that's sort of where we are."
We have communicated this to your government. Our two countries have had a
solid friendship and alliance that has spanned over six decades. We have
seen the coming and breaking of many storms. We have been partners in peace.
We have been partners in war. And we are and shall remain partners in the
war against terrorism."
This is something that affects both of our citizens. It's something that has
an impact on global stability. And we will be vigilant. We will be
determined. And we will be merciless when it comes to dealing with terrorism
and those who perpetrate it."
In our desire to further strengthen cooperation and exchange of information
with the U.S. government, our foreign minister had proposed to the U.S. that
we expand, broaden and deepen the contacts that we have with the U.S.
government in the anti-terrorism front and to add, in particular, expertise
that deals with financial issues to ensure that everybody on this side of
the ocean who needs to know knows and to ensure that everybody on our end
who needs to know knows. And we look forward to enhancing visits and
exchange of visits and meetings between Saudi officials and American
officials in the weeks and months ahead."
I'll stop here and take some questions."
EXCERPTS FROM THE PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
"...how do you deal with the informal networking in the system of
charities that could go to terror networks?"
"Well, that's a good question. And it'll be very difficult to deal with
not just for Saudi Arabia, but for every country."
I understand that the United States gives $10 billion a year in foreign
aid and that American citizens give another $30 billion or so in private
contributions, whether it's to Save The Children, whether it's writing
checks directly to institutions outside the U.S. And it's very difficult to
monitor this or to manage this or to control this."
We have no doubt that those who give for charitable purposes have the
objective of helping others in need. We are much more public about the
dangers that lurk and the possibility that somebody could try to deceive or
could try to take advantage of, and we are hoping that through more public
announcements, we can educate people so that they become more vigilant in
how they and where they give their contributions."
The other issue, frankly, is we have an inter-banking system. Every
dollar that leaves Saudi Arabia now can be traced. And if we find linkage
toward illicit issues or illegal things or terrorism, we will pursue it and
we will pursue it vigorously. We cannot allow our money to be used to murder
our people, period."
"Do you think that you have some responsibility yourself, as a kingdom,
for the way that money has flowed for not being tougher and for not
acknowledging that there is great sympathy among many of your people for bin
Laden and his operatives?"
"Well, I think that there is responsibility to go around for everyone.
If you look at September 11: It was conceived in Afghanistan. It was planned
in Germany. It was funded through Dubai. It was executed in America. And
they used Saudis. Everyone has a responsibility, and everyone has an
obligation to work together in order to make sure that this doesn't happen
again, not just in the United States, but in other places."
We know that it takes more than one -- it takes two to tango in a way.
In this case, it takes the whole world to tango. You cannot be effective in
the fight against terrorism if it is not a global effort. Money moves from
one jurisdiction to another, and unless both jurisdictions cooperate, the
trial is lost."
Intelligence information, law enforcement issues, it has to be a
multilateral effort. We believe very strongly that pointing fingers and
assigning blame doesn't get our or you or the rest of the world anywhere.
What we need to do, as we have done, is join hands, rack our brains together
and find ways to fight the scourge of terrorism."
[Questions about Iraq]
"Since Paul O'Neill came to Saudi Arabia in March, there have only been
these two joint designations. U.S. officials say they would like to do more,
they have more names, but the Saudis are insisting on an unreasonably high
criminal standard of proof before acting. Is there any willingness by Saudi
Arabia to relax somewhat the standard of proof before doing additional
"I would like to see the officials that said this to you, because what
we have in Washington right now, the atmosphere in the United States,
unfortunately, is it's a feeding frenzy, it's "let's bash the Saudis" time.
We are guilty before we say anything. We are guilty as charged. Nobody looks
at the evidence. Nobody tries to prove these points."
The criticism that I hear in the newspapers always comes from anonymous
officials. I have never met such an anonymous official. I come to your
country many times. I have met with people in the State Department, in the
White House, at the NSC, at the Treasury Department, at the Justice
Department. I have not heard people describe it in the manner that you
Our two countries are working very closely on the issue of tracking the
finances of people who support terrorism. Our view, as is the view of
virtually every human being in the world with a sense of decency and
justice, is that when you level a charge, or when you have suspicion, back
it up with proof."
If I came into the United States and I say, "Freeze John Doe's accounts,
because I believe he supports terrorism," what do you think your officials
will tell me? They will tell me, "What's the proof?" If I tell them the
proof is, "I heard a rumor," do you think that that would be sufficient?"
I'm not saying that this is what they're saying regarding us. I'm saying
that, if you put yourself in our shoes, or in the shoes of the Europeans,
the issue of taking action against somebody in a very serious matter needs
to be balanced with equity and justice. It can't be heavy handed."
We are working with the U.S. on looking at a number of individuals. We
have asked the United States to come forth with whatever evidence it has,
just like when we come to the United States and give the U.S. names, and we
have given them many, many names. We back it up with whatever proof we have.
And then we begin working together to see if this is sufficient to take
action or not."
"You opened up by saying that you felt Saudi Arabia has been unfairly
maligned. In that context, do you believe that the planners of the 9/11
hijackings deliberately used Saudi to try to drive a wedge between this
country and yours, and have you shared any information with the White House
that would substantiate that?
"Absolutely. We believe that if you look at Al Qaida, it's members come
from over 50 countries, including the United States. When you look at the
pilots, they came from Lebanon, from the Emirates, from Egypt, from Saudi
Arabia. It was a veritable Arab league. When you look at the people in the
back of the airplanes, they were all Saudis. And that begs the question,
why? He could have had Egyptians. He could have had Germans. He could have
had Americans. He could have Jamaicans. He could have had Indians. It could
have had Malaysians. He chose Saudis."
Why did he do it?"
In order to give this operation a Saudi face and to create doubt in the
minds of Americans about Saudi Arabia and drive a wedge between our two
countries. And you know what? I think he almost succeeded."
And the irony of it is, those who are most critical or hostile toward
Saudi Arabia in the United States are playing right into his hands. Bin
Laden, if he's dead, is laughing at them from his grave. If he is alive and
sitting in a cave, he's doing the same thing."
If, instead of 15 of the 19 hijackers, you had only two of three Saudis
on the planes, does anyone in this room think that Saudi Arabia, that our
people, that our faith, that our education system would have been subjected
to this severe and outrageous criticism with which borders on hate?"
And as somebody who has lived in the United States for almost 20 years,
I have never seen this side of America. I never expected to see this side of
America, this visceral, knee-jerk, "if it's Saudi, it's got to be bad,"
reaction. That's what I find surprising."
I can understand the anger. I can feel your anger. I can understand you
not understanding how we reacted to 9/11, because our natures are different.
You tend to be emotional. We tend to be inward-looking. You tend to be
public about expressing your emotions. We tend to be quiet. And that comes
across -- or came across after 9/11 as not caring, which is not the case."
"In addition to being the commander in chief, the president sets the
tone of the country. Do you think the president has responded to the kind
of -- for what you just mentioned -- in an appropriate way?"
"Yes, I think it's been very clear from the president and the secretary
of state, the NSC adviser, all of America's officials have consistently,
publicly and on the record attested to the positive relationship between our
two countries. The president, for which he deserves a lot of credit, early
on embraced the American Muslim community who made sure that this is a war
against terrorists, not a war against Muslims."
He visited the mosque here in Washington. He was severely criticized by
people, critics of Saudi Arabia. He maintained his course. He spoke out
against some of the statements that came out of American religious leaders,
which were disparaging and insulting towards Islam and the Prophet Muhammad.
And for that the president receives and should receive tremendous credit."
We are not surprised that he took those steps, because he is a
God-fearing man. He is an honorable man. And he's a man with a sense of
justice. And we want to express our thanks and appreciation for him taking
these steps which show compassion, concern and sensitivity toward Muslims
and toward people of other nationalities. And I think that exemplifies the
true spirit of America."
"The Bush administration says Saudi Arabia is in fact a good ally, but
it needs to do more. I wonder if they are -- what they are encouraging you
to do more than you are doing now and how you're reacting?"
"Yes, I think that that statement is accurate. Not just with Saudi
Arabia, but with everybody else, including the United States. We all need to
And if we don't know what else we should be doing, we should scratch
your heads and find what else we can be doing more. America can do more.
Saudi Arabia can do more. The Europeans can do more. Other countries can do
more. There is no limit to what one can do to stop the murder of innocent
people. And so, in that sense, we really don't take issue with the
We have extensive cooperation with the U.S. We intend to expand, broaden
and deepen those ties and those links with the U.S. and with other
countries. We have trained our -- not only our security people, but we are
training our banking people. We are training our finance people. We are
training -- we are educating our public about the dangers of terrorism and
the importance of staying the course. Absolutely, and we are making
terrorism a part of our curriculum in our schools. And if we find other ways
where we can help move this forward, we will."
"Have they asked you -- have they laid specifics on the table, though?
Have they asked you to take specific steps?"
"It's as I said earlier, it is not a relationship of they ask, we do, or
we ask, they do."
It is a partnership. It is a partnership that has been going on for 60
years. In the fight on terrorism, it has been a partnership that has gone on
since the mid-90s. We are in the same boat. We don't sit across each other
from the table. It's a roundtable. We are the table. In particular, Saudi
Arabia and the United States. "
I think it would be more accurate to say that both of us together have
asked other countries to do certain things, yes. But we don't ask each other
to do different things. We are in this together. We are the two countries
that are most threatened by this organization. And we are the two countries
against whom this organization has taken action. So, do you see the -- what
"You said that audits and regulations have been put into effect. Is this
something that's going to take affect immediately?"
"The decision was made by the Higher Commission for Charities that
charities would be subject to audits. To be fair, we have encountered
absolutely no resistance from the charities. Quite the contrary, they
welcomed the involvement of the financial people in helping them set up
systems that will make them more effective in tracking their accounts and so
What I meant by the audits is, after September 11 whenever we hear, we
track and see where funding may have come or where suspicions are raised,
and we have performed audits on some of the charities -- not all of them. We
are still going through that process."
The decision, like I said, has been made. The regulation is in place. I
can't tell you if it'll take two weeks or if it'll take two months. But the
audits are being performed as we speak. Some of them have been performed.
Guidelines for charities are in place. We are working with the charities to
help them set procedures and policies for maintaining their accounts."
For example, a lot of charities raise money through cash at the mosques.
And so what happens to that cash? It needs to be logged in. It needs to be
tracked. It needs to be put in a bank account. And then you have control
over where it goes from that bank account."
We believe that this would serve the interests of the donors who give
money to help people in need. It will serve the interests of the charities
to ensure that they know how and where their funds are spent, and to ensure
that nobody can take advantage of their generosity and their charity. And it
will serve the interests of Saudi Arabia. And it will hopefully serve as a
model for other countries to emulate so that we can prevent terrorists or
evildoers from prying on innocent, honest, law-abiding institutions or
© Compiled by Saudia-Online 2002
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