The Senate Finance Committee is waiting to receive financial records from charities suspected of funding terrorist activities, including the World Assembly of Muslim Youth, before deciding the next step in its investigation of these groups, according to a Senate official.
The committee asked the Internal Revenue Service and the Office of Foreign Assets Control, which can freeze foreign bank accounts under U.S. control, for tax and financial records tied to these suspected groups, a Finance Committee official said Wednesday. In a letter dated Dec. 22, 2003, the committee asked the revenue service to turn over the records of 25 organizations, including WAMY, by Feb. 20.
WAMY is based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and AU Muslim chaplain Fadel Soliman heads a regional office in Falls Church, Va.
While the official declined to talk about specific groups, he said the revenue service has not yet delivered all the requested records, saying there was a lot of information requested.
Soliman said that no one from the committee has contacted him or WAMY about the investigation.
He said the first time he heard about the Senate Finance Committee’s investigation was reading it in the newspaper.
“It’s infortunate that Muslims are put in this situation and investigated after 9-11,” he said. “It’s really sad.”
The committee asked for applications for tax-exempt status, lists of donors, materials relating to agency investigations of groups, and other records relating to suspected groups.
IRS spokesman Anthony Burke said he could find nothing indicating that WAMY is a tax-exempt organization. He declined further comment.
“An investigation of a taxpayer is not public information,” Burke said.
The Senate investigation, designed to make sure the Treasury Department is not inadvertently supporting groups that finance terrorism, was motivated by the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and has been going on for “a little more than a year,” the Finance Committee official said.
The committee did not find out about suspected groups from private sources, the official said.
“We got information from a variety of mostly public sources,” such as reports from the press and the United Nations, he said.
Also, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) wrote a letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft last Sept. 17 that read, “It has come to my attention that there is substantial evidence suggesting that the World Assembly of Muslim Youth ... participates in terrorist financing,” and called WAMY “a major conduit for Saudi Arabian financing” of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas.
In August, Hamas spiritual leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin “publicly thanked WAMY for its continued support in a speech he delivered in Gaza,” the letter read. “Arab press reports indicate that WAMY spends $2.7 million annually in support of the Palestinian Intifada in addition to $70 million it has collected in donations for this purpose at WAMY offices worldwide.”
Staff members in Schumer’s office did not return phone calls for comment.
Once all the requested records have been gathered the Senate Finance Committee will decide where to go from there, the official said.
“Obviously we’ll have quite a task going through all these records,” he said.
Eagle Staff Writer Mackenzie Ryan contributed to this report.