April 28, 2007

(in Australia) Hilali charity probe widens

The Australian Federal Police has seized documents and will question key Islamic community figures after widening its investigation into allegations Australia's mufti, Taj Din al-Hilali, gave charity funds to supporters of al-Qa'ida and Hezbollah terrorist outfits in Lebanon last year.

The Weekend Australian understands the AFP [April 7, 2007] contacted Sheik Hilali's confidant Keysar Trad -- who is in Lebanon -- about the probe. In recent days, police have seized documents from the Sydney-based Lebanese Muslim Association, which is linked to Sheik Hilali, and also interviewed its president, Tom Zreika.

It is believed the federal police "intelligence probe" will include the LMA's affiliate organisations that helped raise the charity donations. The Australian revealed this week the LMA raised $70,000 in conjunction with other Islamic bodies following the Israel-Hezbollah war in Lebanon last year. The money was earmarked for war victims. But LMA documents, in Sheik Hilali's handwriting, reveal he gave $US10,000 to a political party leader and alleged supporter of the Iraqi insurgency and al-Qa'ida, Sheik Bilal Shaaban.

The LMA, which runs the nation's most powerful mosque in Lakemba, in Sydney's southwest, will also be asked by the AFP to submit paperwork detailing its financial transactions. The Weekend Australian understands Sheik Hilali, who is overseas, and LMA employee Sheik Yihya Safi will be asked by the AFP to provide a detailed outline of how they distributed the Australian-raised funds in Lebanon, amid accusations that Sheik Hilali met the leader of Hezbollah's terrorist wing, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah.

Hezbollah is an Iranian-backed group with a political arm in Lebanon and a militant arm that is proscribed in Australia.