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Police detain Swiss-based financiers

Italian police raided the villas of Nada bosses Keystone

Police in the Swiss city of Lugano have detained two Egyptian financiers allegedly linked to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.

This content was published on November 7, 2001 - 16:26

Police said the two men were being held for questioning. They were detained after Italian police raided their homes on Wednesday in Campione D'Italia, a tiny Italian enclave in Switzerland, surrounded by canton Ticino.

The raids, requested by a Swiss magistrate, come after the United States asked the authorities in Switzerland to freeze the assets of the two financiers and their organisation.

The two men, Youssef Mustafa Nada and Ali Ghaleb Himmat, head a Lugano-based company called Nada, which used to be known as al-Taqwa.

Washington also named a resident of Zurich, Mansour-Fattouh, as a possible suspect with links to illicit financial networks.

The Swiss Federal Prosecutor's Office confirmed on Wednesday that the raids and detaining of the two men were part of a coordinated operation with the authorities in Italy and Liechtenstein.

A spokesman for Office, Hansjürg Wiedmer, said police had also raided buildings in Vaduz (the capital of Liechtenstein) and Bern.

Another Nada official, Ahmed Huber, was questioned about al-Taqwa's activities by Swiss officials in Bern before being released.

Assets frozen

The US has asked banks in Switzerland, Italy, Liechtenstein and the Bahamas to block al-Taqwa's assets. US banks have already been ordered to freeze any assets belonging to the organisation.

The US authorities say al-Taqwa is one of several informal cash exchanges - known as "hawalas" - which funnel millions of dollars to terrorists outside the traditional banking system.

Investigators suspect that hawalas also help terrorists acquire material and supplies by acting as front organisations. They believe bin Laden has made use of them to acquire and distribute funds.

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