Founded in 1981 by Prince Muhammed al-Faisal al-Saud (a member of the Saudi Royal Family), Dar al-Maal al-Islami (DMI) is a trust that functions as a holding company with ownership stakes in: Islamic banks throughout Pakistan, Egypt and Africa; investment banks in Bahrain; and the Faisal private bank in Geneva, Switzerland. Managing some $1.5 billion for mostly Muslim clients, DMI operates in three financial business sectors: Islamic Banking, Islamic investment, and Islamic insurance. It also claims to serve as “a financial bridge between the world’s leading financial centres and Islamic countries.” Further, DMI has “devised a comprehensive range of Islamic financial instruments to channel investors’ funds into viable Sharia-compatible operations and investments,” especially real estate and private equity. Sharia law demands that financial institutions “shun interest and speculation in favor of investments in which the borrower and lender share both risk and reward.”
The Sudanese opposition leader Hassan al-Turabi—who advocates for strict Sharia law and has close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood—was a supervisory director of DMI from 1982-92, during which time he urged Osama bin Laden to move al-Qaeda‘s base of operations from Saudi Arabia to Sudan. And prior to 1994, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a highly influential spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, was a religious adviser to DMI.
At one time, DMI’s board of directors included Haydar Mohamed bin Laden (half-brother of Osama bin Laden) and Khalid bin Mahfouz (whose sister Kaleda was one of Osama bin Laden’s twelve wives). In the early 1990s, Mr. bin Mahfouz was indicted by the U.S. government for his role in a massive scandal involving the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, which had perpetrated a host of financial crimes (including money laundering) that defrauded depositors of some $9 billion.
On August 15, 2002, DMI 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 plaintiffs’ brief stated that DMI was involved in “al Qaeda financing through several of its subsidiaries, including […] [Faisal Islamic Bank] and Al Shamal Islamic Bank.” Moreover, the plaintiffs alleged that DMI and the other defendants had given money to charities with direct links to al Qaeda.
On September 23, 2004, DMI was named as one of 39 defendants in a separate, $1 trillion lawsuit that the families of 9/11 victims filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, likewise alleging that the named defendants had given money to charities linked directly to al Qaeda.
At one time, suspected al Qaeda co-founder Wael Jelaidan had maintained an account (containing as much as $405,000) at DMI’s Swiss banking unit. And two extremist groups that the U.S. had designated as terrorist supporters—Lashkar-I-Taiba and Lajnat al-Dawa (a Kuwait-based foundation with links to al Qaeda)—maintained deposit accounts at Faysal Bank Ltd., DMI’s banking affiliate in Pakistan.
In 2007 the U.S. Justice Department’s counterterrorism division disclosed that it was investigating whether clients of a DMI subsidiary were guilty of committing tax evasion via a private equity fund that DMI once owned.
DMI’s founder, Prince Muhammed al-Faisal al-Saud, remains on the trust’s board to this day. He also serves on the boards of Faisal Islamic Bank branches in Sudan and Egypt.