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Business - AP
Al-Qaida Probe Leads to Mass. Company
Sat Dec 7, 8:17 AM ET Add Business - AP to My Yahoo!
By CURT ANDERSON, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - An investigation into al-Qaida's financial backers led federal agents to a Massachusetts software firm whose customers include the FBI (news - web sites), Air Force and Navy as well as several Fortune 500 companies.
Agents from the Customs Service, FBI, Internal Revenue Service (news - web sites) and other agencies, armed with a search warrant, went to the Quincy, Mass., offices of Ptech Inc. late Thursday to look for information on Yasin al-Qadi, officials said Friday.
Al-Qadi is on a Treasury Department (news - web sites) list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists, whose assets the United States wants frozen.
No arrests were made, but agents recovered evidence from Ptech, which consented to the search. Officials would not specify what was found. U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan of Boston said the search involved "an ongoing financial crime investigation" but said an affidavit supporting the warrant was sealed by court order.
Al-Qadi, who is from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, heads the Saudi-based Muwafaq (Blessed Relief) Foundation, which Treasury officials allege is an al-Qaida front used to funnel millions of dollars to the global terror organization.
Federal law enforcement officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said al-Qadi once was a major investor in Ptech. They want to know whether al-Qadi still has a relationship with the company and whether information from the search could lead to other entities with which he was involved.
Joseph Johnson, vice president of professional services at Ptech, said al-Qadi has no ties to the company but "may have had something to do with it nine years ago," when the company started.
"There isn't anything going on here," Johnson said. "We're a small software company. What we do doesn't give us access to information that is top secret."
Ptech provides sophisticated financial tracking and budgeting software to big companies and to numerous government agencies, including the FBI, Energy Department, Air Force, Navy, NATO (news - web sites), IRS and U.S. House. Business clients include IBM, Weyerhauser and Aetna, according to the company Web site.
The software is not involved in classified areas but handles sensitive government data.
The company's software code was checked by the government to determine if outsiders could read or steal any sensitive data from the government, or embed the code with something destructive, officials said. Those checks began months ago, when the probe of Ptech started.
"The material has been reviewed by the appropriate government agencies, and they have detected absolutely nothing in their reports to the White House that would lead to any concern," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer (news - web sites).
No one answered the door or the phone Friday at the home of the company's chairman and chief executive officer, Oussama Ziade. A man who answered the phone at the home of vice president Hussein Ibrahim said Ibrahim was unavailable. Neither Ziade nor Ibrahim appear on any government lists of suspected terrorists.
Public records in Massachusetts say Ptech has ties to BMI Inc., a now-defunct Secaucus, N.J., company that law enforcement officials also have linked to al-Qadi. Johnson said he had no knowledge of a BMI connection; the records show BMI financed Ptech computer and telephone equipment during the 1990s.
The investigation is part of a broader Customs-led program known as "Operation Green Quest," a multiagency task force that has served 114 search warrants in the past 14 months involving suspected terrorist financing networks. The effort has resulted in 50 arrests, 28 indictments and the seizure of about $27.4 million, Customs officials said.
Associated Press writer Justin Pope in Boston contributed to this story.
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Customs Service: http://www.customs.treas.gov