Treasury Department Designaton of Global Relief Foundation

by U.S. Treasury Dept.
October 18, 2002

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IPT Backgrounder:

The Global Relief Foundation (GRF) began operating in the United States as a tax-exempt, nonprofit charitable organization in 1992.[1] Based in Bridgeview, Illinois, it grew into one of the largest Islamic charities in the United States. GRF described itself as a not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization set up to provide humanitarian and charitable relief to Muslims, especially in conflict zones such as Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechnya, Kashmir, and Lebanon, through a network of overseas offices.[2] In addition to undertaking this charitable work, however, the organization served as a propaganda organ for global jihad, and the U.S. government has alleged that GRF funded violent jihadism.[3] GRF had an initial budget of about $700,000.[4] By the end of the 1990s, it was reporting more than $5 million in annual contributions.[5] The organization's tax filings indicate that 90 percent of the money donated between 1994 and 2000 was sent abroad.[6] An FBI memorandum notes that "some materials distributed by GRF glorify ‘martyrdom through jihad' and state that donations will be used to buy ammunition, equip ‘the raiders' and support the Mujahedin."[7] GRF had overseas registered offices in Islamabad, Pakistan; Brussels, Belgium; Sarajevo, Bosnia; Zagreb, Croatia; and Baku, Azerbaijan.[8]

On December 14, 2001 the FBI raided GRF's Bridgeview headquarters and arrested its chairman, Rabih Haddad.[9] On that same day, NATO soldiers and United Nations police raided GRF's offices in Kosovo.[10] The U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) took control of GRF's assets, informing the GRF:

The United States Government has reason to believe that Global Relief Foundation, Inc. ("GRFI") may be engaged in activities that violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, 50 U.S.C. §§ 1701-06 ("IEEPA"). You are hereby notified that pursuant to the authorities granted by the IEEPA, the U.S. Department of the Treasury is blocking all funds and accounts and business records in which GRFI has any interest, pending further investigation and resolution of this matter.[11]

GRF sued then-Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, and FBI Director Robert Mueller, challenging the seizure of their assets, in January 2002.[12] The district court denied GRF's request for an injunction against the defendants.[13] The case went to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit where the court found in favor of the defendants.[14]

The FBI began investigating GRF prior to 9/11, suspecting that it supported Islamic extremism[15] and had high-level affiliations with an al Qaeda precursor organization in Pakistan.[16] Chicago FBI agents summarized their findings in a January 6, 2000 memo:

Although the majority of GRF funding goes toward legitimate relief operations, a significant percentage is diverted to fund extremist causes. Among the terrorist groups known to have links to GRF are the Algerian Armed Islamic Group, the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Gama'at Al Islamyia, and the Kashmiri Harakat Al Jihad El Islam, as well as the Al Qaeda organization of Usama Bin Laden. . . . In the past, GRF support to terrorists and other transnational mujahideen fighters has taken the form of purchase and shipment of large quantities of sophisticated communications equipment, provision of humanitarian cover documentation to suspected terrorists and fund-raising for terrorist groups under the cover of humanitarian relief.[17]

[1] Global Relief Foundation Form 990, 1993.

[2] National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, "Monograph on Terrorism Financing," 89.

[3] Ibid., 88.

[4] State of Illinois, Global Relief Foundation, Articles of Incorporation, January 10, 1992.

[5] National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, "Monograph on Terrorism Financing," 89.

[6] Ibid.

[7] "Feds Claim Muslim Charity Had Contact with Bin Laden Secretary," Associated Press, March 28, 2002.

[8] Global News 4, no. 1 (Winter 1997) 8.

[9] Deanna Bellandi, "FBI issues search warrants at two Islamic charities based in suburban Chicago," Associated Press, December 14, 2001.

[10] "Feds Close Two More Muslim Groups," CBS News, December 14, 2001.

[11] Global Relief Foundation, Inc. v. New York Times Company, et al., 01 C 8821, "Memorandum Opinion and Order," 7 (ND IL February 19, 2003). See Appendix for the text of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, 50 U.S.C. §§ 1701-06.

[12] Global Relief Foundaiton, Inc. v. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, et. al., 02-C-0674, "Complaint," (ND IL, January 28, 2002).

[13] Global Relief Foundaiton, Inc. v. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, et. al, Defendants-Appellees, No. 02-2536, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, 315 F.3d 748; 2002 U.S. App. LEXIS 27172, October 29, 2002, Argued, December 31, 2002, Decided.

[14] Ibid.

[15] "Monograph on Terrorism Financing," Staff Report to the Commission, National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, August 2004, p. 90.

[16] "Treasury Department Fact Sheet on the Global Relief Foundation," Department of State: Washington File, October 18, 2002.

[17] Ibid., 91.