Firm With Close Clinton Ties Lobbied For Islamic Bank Accused Of Financing Terrorism
A Washington D.C. lobbying firm closely linked to Hillary Clinton was paid handsomely by a sharia-compliant Bengali bank tied to terrorism, government records show.
Islami Bank Bangladesh Ltd., which was founded in 1983, paid The Podesta Group $390,000 starting last year to lobby the Senate and House on “international banking issues,” according to disclosure forms filed with the Senate.
The bank, which operates in compliance with Islamic banking laws, signed the agreement with the Podesta Group last March 6. The relationship, which ended late last month, went unreported in the press until now.
The Podesta Group has perhaps the strongest ties to Hillary Clinton of any high-powered lobbying outfit. It was co-founded by two brothers and longtime Clinton cronies, John and Tony Podesta. John Podesta is Clinton’s campaign chairman. Tony Podesta is a major bundler for her campaign. He has raised more than $130,000 for the Democratic party nominee this election cycle. Podesta’s ex-wife, Heather Podesta, has also bundled six-figures worth of donations for Clinton.
Islami Bank Bangladesh (IBB) decision to hire the Podesta Group was part of a ramped up effort to limit reputational and financial damage it sustained after the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs’ Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations published a report in July 2012 tying the group to Islamist terrorist groups.
The subcommittee found that IBB “provided an account to a Bangladeshi accused of involvement with a terrorist bombing, and had been fined three times…in connection with providing bank services to ‘militants.'”
Several of the bank’s top officials are members of Jamaat-e-Islami, an Islamic fundamentalist group that fought against Bengali independence in 1971. One of the bank’s directors is Mir Quasem Ali. He was sentenced to death in Bangladesh in 2014 after being convicted on war crimes charges for his role in the 1971 independence fight.
IBB also has ties to Jamaat-ul-Mujahedin Bangladesh, a fundamentalist group which has carried out scores of bombings in Bangladesh.
One of the bank’s main shareholders is Al Rajhi Bank, a sharia-compliant that also has alleged terror ties.
In a hearing based on the Senate report, Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, a Democrat, described Al Rajhi Bank, which reportedly owns 37 percent of Islami Bank’s shares, as “a Saudi Arabian bank whose account was closed by [HBSC’s U.S. affiliate] in 2005 for terrorist financing reasons.”
The name of one of Al Rajhi Bank’s co-founders and top officials, Sulaiman Al-Rajhi, was found on a list that has been dubbed “The Golden Chain.” Discovered in Bosnia in 2002, the list purportedly contains the names of 20 top al Qaeda financiers.
A Nov. 2012 report from the Eurasia Review provided other links between IBB and terrorist activity.
The group “was found to be linked with the Kuwait based Islamic [non-governmental organization], Revival of Islamic Heritage Society (RIHS), whose bank accounts in Pakistan were closed following 9/11.”
IBB “is also believed to have been closely tied to the August 17, 2005, serial bombings across Bangladesh,” the report states.
There is no direct link between the Islami Bank Bangladesh and Clinton or the Clinton Foundation, the charity that the former first couple operates and which has been a source of ongoing scandal. But the connection through the Podesta Group shows just how few degrees of separation often separate the Clinton and groups implicated in illicit or controversial activities.
Another such link emerged in April. As The Daily Caller found, Tony Podesta personally lobbied for the Center for Studies and Media Affairs at the Saudi Royal Court, an arm of the Saudi regime. (RELATED: Exclusive: Hillary Clinton Campaign Bundler Is Directly Lobbying For Saudi Arabia)
The Saudis have pressured the Obama administration to oppose legislation that would allow family members of 9/11 victims to sue the Saudi government over the attacks. The Saudi group has paid the Podesta Group $140,000 a month for its pubic relations services.
Islami Bank’s lobbyist spending prior to hiring the Podesta Group provides insight into what “international banking issues” it hoped to explore.
The Islamic bank paid lobbyist Dana Contratto $120,000 in 2013 and 2014 to work on issues related to the “implications of July 2012 Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations staff report on HSBC.”
Contratto died in July 2014.
In a report published published in an outlet called The Daily Star, two top IBB officials explained their lobbying expenses.
“The firm will help us reach our explanation to the US Senate committee that came up with the report last year,” Islami Bank’s managing director Mohammed Abdul Mannan told The Daily Star.
“Earlier, we had tried to clear our position before the U.S. Senate subcommittee. But we could not reach them,” Mahbub ul Alam, the bank’s deputy managing director, said.
The group also paid lobbyist Powell Moore $45,000 in that same time period to lobby on the same issue. The relationship was terminated in April 2014, about a year before the bank tapped the Podesta Group.