Riyadh, Nov. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Saudi Arabia has closed bank accounts tied to
some of the 66 people and organizations the U.S. says are linked to the Sept. 11
attacks on the U.S., said David Hodgkinson, managing director of Saudi British
Bank, the No. 5 Saudi bank.
Hodgkinson would not give details or say whether any of the accounts were at
Saudi British, which is 40 percent owned by HSBC Holdings Plc. While U.S.
officials have said Saudi Arabia is cooperating with the inquiry into financing
sources for Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network, this is the first
indication specific accounts have been frozen or closed.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said last month of the Saudi monarchy:
``Everything we have asked them to do they have done.'' However, Saudi Arabia's
interior minister, Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz, said in mid-October that his
country will only review accounts if there's a clear connection to bin Laden and
al- Qaeda, according to the official Saudi Press Agency.
The Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency, which circulated the two lists to banks,
would not comment. A Western diplomat who declined to be identified confirmed
the Saudis have shut ``some'' accounts in response to the U.S. lists.
Saudi Arabia hasn't circulated a third list of 22 names the U.S. issued
earlier this month that targeted groups with weak or no links to al-Qaeda, such
as Lebanese Hezbollah, or militant Palestinian organizations Hamas and Islamic
Jihad, the diplomat said.
Fifteen of the 19 hijackers who crashed planes into the World Trade Center
and the Pentagon carried Saudi passports, according to the Federal Bureau of
Investigation. Bin Laden, the prime suspect in the attacks, was a Saudi citizen
until the kingdom revoked his passport in 1994.
HSBC is not the only Western bank with a minority share in a Saudi bank.
Citigroup Inc., Credit Agricole, ABN Amro Holding NV and others own minority
stakes in half the kingdom's banks, giving them a degree of control over 44
percent of the country's bank assets.
They say their Saudi affiliates all are cooperating with the investigation.
ABN Amro, the No. 1 Dutch bank, ordered its Saudi associate to search records
for 1,500 people and groups possibly linked to funding the attacks.
``We are cooperating fully with the regulatory authorities in trying to
identify these funds,'' said Ali Shihabi, a member of the board of Saudi
Hollandi Bank, in which ABN Amro has a 40 percent stake. ``To be honest, though,
the amounts involved are small and difficult to spot as they may be totally
Each of the mother companies has signed renewable 5-year management contracts
with their majority Saudi partners allowing them to put their own people into
top management positions, including that of chief executive.
Citigroup owns 23 percent of Saudi American Bank, the second- largest Saudi
bank, known as Samba. ``Samba follows the same anti- money laundering rules as
Citi, but it also complies with local (Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency)
regulations,'' said Andrea Hurst, a spokeswoman for Citigroup.
Spokespeople for minority owners of other Saudi banks -- J.P. Morgan Chase &
Co., and Credit Agricole didn't respond to requests for comment on policies at
Credit Agricole, France's biggest unlisted bank, owns 31 percent of Al Bank
Al Saudi Al Fransi, the sixth-largest Saudi bank. J.P. Morgan Chase, the
second-largest U.S. bank, owns 7.5 percent of Saudi Investment Bank, the
country's No. 9 bank, which in turn owns 50 percent of American Express (Saudi
Arabia) Ltd., according to Bankers' Almanac.
The affiliates of Western banks hold $53 billion of the kingdom's $121.6
billion assets, according to Bankers' Almanac.