SAAR is the acronym for Sulaiman Abdul Aziz Rajihi, the Saudi sheik who set up the SAAR Foundation in the 1970s ostensibly to allow scholars and scientists from the Middle East and Asia to create charitable programs that would supply food, education, and technology to Islamic countries. The U.S. branch of SAAR was dissolved in December 2000 after raising $1.7 billion in the United States. SAAR was part of the SAFA Trust Group, a group of shell companies headquartered at 555 Grove Street in Herndon, Virginia, where the FBI and the U.S. Customs agency believe SAAR was set up to raise funds and launder money for international terrorist groups like al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
In March 2002 the FBI and U.S. Customs raided SAAR’s Virginia offices and seized records of the SAFA Group (SAAR included). The information obtained in this raid revealed a pattern of multi-layered transactions by the SAFA Group that were designed to confuse law-enforcement authorities and keep them off the money trail. Of $54 million dollars raised by the SAAR Foundation ostensibly for “charity,” $26 million went to the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea, a notorious location for drug runners and money laundering. Only $20 million made its way to SAFA Group charities. According to David Kane, the federal agent who led the raid, SAAR/SAFA’s intent was “to route money through hidden paths to terrorists, and to defraud the Untied States by impeding, importing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful functions of the IRS.”
Abdurahman Alamoudi, who has been linked to terrorism funding by federal authorities, led several organizations in the SAAR/SAFA Trust Group. The SAAR Foundation was also implicated in funding Sami Al-Arian, who was the U.S. leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), for which he raised money while working as a professor at the University of South Florida.