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Ptech terror link { December 7 2002 }

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Over the past four years it has done about $3 million in nonclassified work for clients that include the FBI, the FAA, the Department of Energy, the Navy, the Air Force and even the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Terrorism Investigators Search Company in Mass.
Probe Focused on Possible Link Between Software Firm and Accused Al Qaeda Financier

By John Mintz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 7, 2002; Page A02

Federal agents investigating possible financing of terrorists searched the Massachusetts headquarters of a computer software firm that does contracting work for federal agencies including the FBI and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Before the raid to remove documents from the offices of Ptech Inc. of Quincy, Mass., U.S. government officials looked into whether the company could have compromised or manipulated the software that it provides to federal clients, but concluded that it had not.

The investigation, led by the U.S. Customs Service, focuses on whether Ptech has any financial relationship to a wealthy Saudi businessman and philanthropist, Yasin al-Qadi, who the U.S. government designated a terrorist financier in October 2001. Al-Qadi denies any tie to terrorism.

The probe began when people associated with Ptech contacted investigators with their concerns that the company might be tied to terrorism financiers, government officials said. Investigators have found some financial ties between Ptech and firms connected to al-Qadi. A number of Ptech officials or employees have worked for companies that al-Qadi owned or helped finance, according to people with knowledge of the investigation.

"We're looking into exactly what al-Qadi's financial ties might be to this company, as well as the allegation that he was a prime bankroller of it," a senior U.S. government official involved in the investigation said. Any financial dealings between the company and al-Qadi could be illegal, because ties to a designated terrorist financier are banned under U.S. law.

Ptech officials did not return telephone messages left at the company's headquarters and at the homes of some executives.

The firm provides a range of services for private and government clients, including designing and servicing software involved in data management and communications. Over the past four years it has done about $3 million in nonclassified work for clients that include the FBI, the FAA, the Department of Energy, the Navy, the Air Force and even the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said U.S. officials "have detected absolutely nothing, in their reports to the White House, that would lead to any concern about any of the products purchased from this company." He said the probe is examining "the potential for terrorist connections in this company."

Al-Qadi, who lived in Illinois in the early 1980s while he studied architecture, now lives in Saudi Arabia and oversees a business empire that spans real estate, manufacturing and investment banking and includes a number of firms in this country.

The Treasury Department seized al-Qadi's U.S. assets in October 2001. The Treasury Department said at the time that a now-defunct Saudi-based charity he headed, the Muwafaq (Blessed Relief) Foundation, was "an al Qaeda front that receives funding from wealthy Saudi businessmen," and that the charity is used for "transferring millions of dollars to [Osama] bin Laden."

U.S. officials have also said publicly and privately that they believe al-Qadi has funneled money for years to al Qaeda and to the Islamic Resistance Movement, or Hamas, which organizes suicide bombings targeting Israeli civilians and has been declared a terrorist group by the U.S. government. FBI documents were filed in a federal court in Chicago outlining an investigation of $820,000 sent to this country in a series of complex schemes by one of al-Qadi's firms, Kadi International. The bureau concluded the deals were designed in part to fund Hamas.

Al-Qadi has consistently denied any impropriety. "In all my individual, business and charitable activities, I have never supported, nor have I intended to support in any manner whatsoever, bin Laden or al Qaeda," he said in a statement yesterday. "My legal team is in the process of making submissions to the appropriate authorities in the U.S. in order to demonstrate my total innocence of the allegations against me."

Earlier this week Adel al-Jubeir, a top adviser to the de facto Saudi ruler, Crown Prince Abdullah, said Riyadh had seized al-Qadi's bank accounts in the desert kingdom. The news conference was the latest turn in the increasingly strained relations between Washington and Riyadh over the war on terrorist financing.

Terrorism specialist Steven Emerson, who heads the Investigative Project and has tracked al-Qadi's finances in the United States for years, located a number of ties between his business interests and Ptech. Public documents filed in Massachusetts show that Ptech leased much of its office and computer equipment using financing provided by BMI Finance and Investment, a firm that was partly financed by al-Qadi and which shared office space in New Jersey with Kadi International.

Soliman S. Biheiri, a founding director of Ptech in 1994, was also a top official of BMI, according to BMI's incorporation papers. Hussein Ibrahim, a Ptech vice president, previously served as a top executive of BMI, according to other documents unearthed by terrorism expert Rita Katz of the SITE Institute.

Another person on Ptech's board of directors was Yaqub Mirza, a philanthropist and businessman whose offices in Herndon were searched by Customs last March in a separate investigation into terrorist financing, according to internal Ptech reports located by Emerson.

Staff writer Susan Schmidt and researcher Margot Williams contributed to this report.

2002 The Washington Post Company

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