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Swiss block accounts allegedly linked to bin Laden

Entrance to the villa of the Nada management, suspected of having links to Osama bin Laden Keystone

The Swiss authorities have frozen all the financial accounts belonging to a Lugano-based company suspected of funnelling funds to terrorists.

This content was published on November 8, 2001 - 16:41

The Federal Prosecutor's Office on Thursday confirmed it had ordered the accounts of the Nada Management Organisation blocked on suspicion that the firm had possible links to the September 11 attacks.

No details were given about the amounts frozen or the banks concerned.

The move comes after the United States asked Switzerland, Italy, Liechtenstein and the Bahamas to block all assets belonging to the Nada Management Organisation, which was previously known as al-Taqwa.

Bosses detained

Two of the company's bosses were detained by police for questioning in Lugano on Wednesday, as part of a coordinated operation by Switzerland, Italy and Liechtenstein.

Youssef Mustafa Nada and Ali Ghaleb Himmat were taken into custody after Italian police raided their homes on Wednesday in Campione D'Italia, a tiny Italian enclave in Switzerland, surrounded by canton Ticino. They were later released.

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

The Swiss federal prosecutor, Valentin Roschacher, said the investigation was likely to take several months. "We now have enough information to open an inquiry. We seized a lot of documentation on Wednesday, some of which is in Arabic, and it will take a long time to follow the paper trail."

But he added that the authorities did not have enough evidence to make any arrests.

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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