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Luxembourg Bank May Have Had Dealings with Bin Laden Operative - 2001-09-24


Authorities in Luxembourg, a European financial center, have disclosed that one of the country's banks may have had contact in recent months with a man who had links to the financing network of suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden.

The Luxembourg Bankers' Association says a bank located here recently refused to do business with a customer who had possible links to Osama bin Laden, the man identified by U.S. officials as the prime suspect in the recent terrorist attacks in the United States

Association General Manager Lucien Thiel says that a few months ago a Luxembourg bank was contacted by a French lawyer who wanted to open an account. Mr. Thiel, who didn't name the bank, said it refused because its officials suspected the potential customer might have had a link with the bin Laden network. He did not give any further details of this case or reveal the amount of money involved. But the German magazine Der Spiegel, in an article published Monday, says it was about $5 million.

Mr. Thiel says Luxembourg is tough in checking on the source of money deposited in its banks to prevent money laundering or related activities. The banks have internal systems and work in conjunction with the local prosecutor's office.

In addition, Mr. Thiel says, Luxembourg participates in an international body called Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering - set up by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The world of international financing is a complicated and tricky one, and even with such checks, Mr. Thiel says, there can still be difficulties. However, in this case, the system, according to Mr. Thiel, caught a potential problem. He said, "The system works and we are happy to see that it works because this shows that the banks are playing the game and that they are playing the game seriously, and with all consequences."

Mr. Thiel says he knows of no other such cases at this time that can be traced to Mr. bin Laden.

The Luxembourg prosecutor's office says the FBI has given Luxembourg - and other banking centers - lists of names of those with terrorist links. In addition authorities here are carrying out their own investigations.

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