On October 29, 2021, a Dutch woman, Farhia Hassan, appeared in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to face charges related to her alleged involvement in Somalian terrorist group al-Shabaab and could face up to 15 years in prison.
According to the Justice Department press release, in or about February 2011 through July 2014, Hassan and Muna Osman Jama, 41, of Reston, Virginia, and Hinda Osman Dhirane, 51, of Kent, Washington, allegedly provided financial support to al-Shabbab. The other two members in the financing ring, Jama and Dhirane, were convicted in 2016 and sentenced to 12- and 11- years sentences, respectively. According to authorities, dozen more individuals partook in this scheme.
The women were able to get the money to al-Shabab “through conduits in Nairobi, Kenya, and Hargeisa, Somalia, the group of women allegedly funneled cash payments via money remitters directly to members of the terrorist group.” The money allegedly was used to purchase weapons and trucks and fund safehouses.
While in the Netherlands, Hassan allegedly raised money by falsely claiming that she was raising money to fund charitable organizations such as Orphan schools when she was collecting money to support terrorists. They allegedly gathered money in small chunks of $50s or $100s, but prosecutors argue that any amount of money could have drastic impacts in Somalia.
“They financed the suicide vests and the machine guns; they fed, equipped, and gave shelter to the al-Shabaab fighters as they prepared to carry out their attacks; they provided the machinery that permitted the al-Shabaab fighters to return to kill again,” according to a memo from the prosecutors reported in the Washington Post.
Hasan’s defense argues that her client was supposed “to consider U.S. law when donating money to a foreign organization engaged in internal insurgency in Africa.” Still, Judge Anthony J. Trenga objected to the argument and said that she is tied to this crime through her involvement with perpetrators in American that are intending to cause harm to American interests by supporting terrorist groups.
Hasan’s conviction illustrates the value of a mutual legal assistance and extradition treaties that allow countries to cooperate to protect and enforce others’ laws.
Hasan’s extradition demonstrates that both U.S. and Netherlands are not tolerating any crimes related to terror financing, and both are willing to act and cooperate to terrorism.
The case also illustrates why governments and the Financial Action Task Force caution charities and financial institutions about the potential for charities to knowingly or unknowingly serve as intermediaries for terrorist financing.
The December 2021 issue of the IELR will have a more comprehensive discussion of this topic.