Board member of a diamond business is accused of funding bin Laden

A prominent Saudi businessman accused of funneling millions of dollars to Osama bin Laden is on the board of directors of a La Jolla, Calif., diamond mining company, reports the San Diego Union-Tribune.

On Friday, Yasin al-Qadi’s assets were frozen by the U.S. Treasury Department in an attempt to hinder terrorist activities, the newspaper reported Tuesday.

Al-Qadi invested $3 million in Global Diamond Resources Inc. in December 1998, the newspaper reported. He became involved in the company after he was introduced to Global Chairman Johann de Villiers in London.

Al-Qadi was granted two spots on the board of directors for the investment-about 10% to 12% of the company’s holdings-and he took one of the spots, using the name Yassin A. Al-Kadi.

De Villiers said yesterday that Al-Qadi was recommended by members of the wealthy bin Laden family, who also own about 10% of Global stock. Two members of the family, which has publicly disowned Osama bin Laden, Said H. Ghachem and Gasem S. Al-Shaikh, serve on the Global board.

Founded in 1994 by de Villiers, Global Diamond Resources explores and mines for diamonds on South African properties it owns, and then sells the diamonds directly to private diamond dealers. According to its Web site, the company has a 100% stake in two alluvial deposits and an option to acquire a diamondiferous pipe. All properties are located in the Republic of South Africa.

Although its stock spiked above 70 cents a share in 1997 and again in the spring of 2000, Global’s own accounting firm questions the company’s viability, the newspaper reported. On Monday, Global stock closed at 8 cents.

Al-Qadi is accused by the U.S. government of transferring money to Osama bin Laden through charities and trusts established to benefit the poor and hungry.

The Bush administration has described the Muwafaq Foundation, administered by some of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent families, as a front for al-Qaeda terrorist networks. The foundation’s name means “Blessed Relief” in Arabic.

But Al-Qadi told de Villiers this weekend that he’s never given any money to bin Laden. And he told reporters that Muwafaq hasn’t existed since 1996, the newspaper reported.

“Nothing has been given to bin Laden whatsoever. This is nonsense,” he reportedly told The Washington Post during an interview in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

De Villiers said he was surprised to hear that al-Qadi could have connections to Osama bin Laden and his terrorist cells, the Union-Tribune reported. “I’m concerned that he may be involved in that, though I seriously doubt it, knowing him,” de Villiers said. But, he added, it “would be a disaster if he did.”

De Villiers said he met al-Qadi three or four times, always in London or the United Arab Emirates, and found him to be a “very nice, very well-mannered, very pleasant guy,” the newspaper reported. He said he doesn’t know if al-Qadi has ever visited San Diego.

Al-Qadi is also known under the names Shaykh Yassin Abdullah Kadi and Yasin Kahdi, the newspaper reported.