The Al Shamal Islamic Bank (ASIB) was established in Khartoum, Sudan in 1983. Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, who in 1984 moved several of his Saudi business enterprises and many of his assets to Sudan, capitalized ASIB with $50 million from his vast fortune. ASIB was subsequently incorporated as a public company on July 23, 1985, and was “officially inaugurated” on January 2, 1990. According to CIA surveillance reports, bin Laden “went to the [ASIB] bank every day” in the early 1990s. Also during that period, he transferred some $230,000 to a bank in Arizona, where an al Qaeda associate named Essam al Ridi withdrew the money and used it to purchase a plane for the intended purpose of transporting Stinger missiles from Pakistan to al Qaeda’s base of operations in Sudan.
In 1996-97, Jamal Ahmed al-Fadl, the onetime al Qaeda finance manager who had recently defected from that organization and become a highly trusted informant for the U.S. government, revealed that he and several other al Qaeda operatives had funded their terrorist activities with money from ASIB accounts. During the 2001 trial of the men suspected of having carried out the deadly al Qaeda bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa three years earlier, al-Fadl further testified that bin Laden paid all the members of his terror network with funds he held in ASIB.
At a post-9/11 hearing, the chairman of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee testified that “Al Shamal Islamic Bank operations continue to finance and materially support international terrorism, and … there are indications that Osama bin Laden remains the leading shareholder of that bank.” According to the Chicago Tribune, bin Laden was linked more closely to ASIB than to any other bank in the world.
On September 26, 2001, Senator Carl Levin (D-Michigan) stated publicly that ASIB had obtained correspondent accounts with three banks in the U.S. and with many others in Europe and the Middle East. Shortly after this revelation, a number of European banks quietly began cutting off all their dealings with ASIB.
On August 15, 2002, ASIB was named as a defendant in a $100 trillion lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by the families of murdered 9/11 victims. Echoing State Department records, the brief filed by the plaintiffs asserted that ASIB was involved in “al Qaeda financing” along with the Dar Al-Maal Al-Islami Trust and Faisal Islamic Bank. Moreover, the plaintiffs alleged that ASIB and the other defendants had given money to charities with direct links to al Qaeda.On September 23, 2004, ASIB was named as one of 39 defendants in a separate, $1 trillion lawsuit that families of the 9/11 victims filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, likewise alleging that the defendants had given money to charities linked directly to al Qaeda.
One of ASIB’s leading investors is a Geneva-based financial services conglomerate headed by the Saudi Prince Muhammed al Faisal al-Saud, whose Faisal Islamic Bank (FIB) was one of the five major founders of ASIB. Moreover, both FIB and ASIB were at one time subsidiaries of the Dar Al-Maal Al-Islami Trust (DMI), also headed by Prince Muhammed.
Another prominent shareholder in ASIB is multimillionaire Adel Batterjee, who has served stints as chairman of both ASIB and the World Assembly of Muslim Youth. Long suspected of having ties to al Qaeda, Batterjee in 2004 was officially designated as a terrorist financier by the U.S. government.
Professing devotion to “the comprehensiveness of Islam,” ASIB today strives to follow banking and investment practices that abide by “Islamic principles,” “Islamic dealing formulas,” and “the Sharia Laws.” Guided and advised by a Sharia Supervisory Board, Al Shamal seeks to “support, coordinate and develop business, commercial, economic and financial dealing between Sudan and other Islamic, Arab and international countries, organizations, companies and corporations.” Also among ASIB’s objectives are to: (a) fulfill “the Will of Allah” by opening new branches in “the various Sudanese states”; (b) “contribute [to] development projects for the Northern region in the fields of agricultural, commercial, mining and real estate investment”; and (c) “care for the expatriates of [the] Northern region in particular and other regions in general, in addition to the attraction and utilization of their savings in a way that maintains their interests and the interests of the region in particular.”
ASIB today has two subsidiaries, the International Modern Investment Company and the Gondeela for Agricultural and Investment Services Company.