"Local Muslim activists said yesterday that they will launch a public campaign against Wachovia Corp. to protest its refusal to explain why it closed the bank accounts of a Herndon-based Muslim social service organization....Following the money trail is an important part of protecting our national security. And using charity organizations is one way to launder money.
"'People in this community have a right to know why Wachovia closed this account,' said Mahdi Bray, director of the Muslim American Society's Freedom Foundation....
"The treasurer of the Muslim charity, the Foundation for Appropriate and Immediate Temporary Help, said she suspects that Wachovia closed the accounts because the charity received a donation in April 2005 from a charity run by Muslim businessman M. Yaqub Mirza, whose Northern Virginia home and offices were raided by federal agents in 2002. Mirza has not been charged with a crime.
"The $150,000 donation, intended as an endowment, came from an account at the same Wachovia branch where the Foundation for Appropriate and Immediate Temporary Help had its accounts, said the treasurer, Margaret Farchtchi. The money was then invested in a subsidiary of Sterling Management Group Inc., a company run by Mirza, in an account at the same branch. This provided Wachovia with full transparency on the donation's movements, Farchtchi and another source close to the charity said.
"Although $150,000 was an unusually large amount for the charity's three accounts, which normally held $60,000 to $70,000, the origin and purpose of the money could have been 'easily explained' if bank officials had asked, Farchtchi said....
"Saylor, of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said that last year Wachovia also closed accounts held by five Northern Virginia Muslim organizations that were targeted in U.S. Customs raids in 2002, including Sterling Management. None has been charged with a crime.
"The offices of the Foundation for Appropriate and Immediate Temporary Help were not raided and, as far as it knows, it 'has never been the subject' of a federal investigation, Saylor wrote in an e-mail.
"Formed in 1999, the charity provides aid to needy Northern Virginia residents of all faiths, including crisis counseling; emergency payments for rent, food and utilities; and support for victims of domestic violence.
"In a Jan. 13 letter to a charity official, Jeraldine B. Davis, Wachovia senior vice president and assistant general counsel, denied that the bank 'was motivated by discrimination.' She wrote that certain account activity 'was significantly different from that which Wachovia would expect to see in an account established for a charity.'
"David Caruso, a bank consultant who specializes in efforts to prevent money-laundering, said Wachovia's silence may stem from restrictions imposed by Congress after the 2001 terrorist attacks. Besides being required to report suspicious financial activities to the U.S. Treasury, banks are barred by law from telling anyone that they have made such reports.
"Banks are not required to close accounts that raise suspicions, but monitoring them can become costly, Caruso said. As a result, he said, banks may 'make a business decision' that keeping the account is not worth the cost."
Sunday, May 07, 2006
Muslims To Protest Wachovia Bank
From the article "Wachovia Bank Action Riles Muslim Activists," which appeared in the May 6, 2006 edition of the Washington Post: