The limits of BBC reporting on Hamas financing

On January 17th Israeli state TV correspondent Roi Kais reported that journalists in Sudan were claiming that a Sudanese businessman had been arrested by the Egyptian authorities.

The man in question, Abdel Basset Hamza (aka Abdelbasit Hamza Elhassan Mohamed Khair), had been sanctioned by the UK government on October 14th 2023:

“Abdelbasit Hamza: Hamza is a Sudan-based Hamas financier who owned a network of companies that laundered money and traded in currency in order to finance Hamas.”

Four days later, on October 18th 2023, Hamza was also sanctioned by the US Treasury due to his role as a financier of Hamas:

“Abdelbasit Hamza Elhassan Mohamed Khair (Hamza) is a Sudan-based Hamas financier who has managed numerous companies in Hamas’s investment portfolio and was previously involved in the transfer of almost $20 million to Hamas, including funds sent directly to Mahir Jawad Yunis Salah, a senior Hamas financial officer, whom OFAC designated as an SDGT on September 10, 2015. Hamza has facilitated funds for Hamas through a network of large companies in Sudan. The network used by Hamza to launder money and generate revenue for Hamas includes Sudan-based Al Rowad Real Estate Development, which OFAC designated as an SDGT in OFAC’s May 24, 2022 sanctions action targeting Hamas’s investment portfolio. Hamza also has longstanding ties to terrorism financing, including historic ties to al-Qa’ida and Usama bin Laden-linked companies in Sudan.”

On December 20th the ICIJ reported that:

“Hamza has maintained business ties in Europe for nearly two decades, ICIJ and Shomrim found. He has been an owner of Matz Holdings, a Cyprus firm incorporated in February 2005 that holds lucrative concessions from Egypt to exploit two gold mines in the country. Around the time of al-Bashir’s fall from power in 2019, Hamza sold a large portion of his shares in Matz Holdings; he currently owns a 10% stake in the company. In addition to having a Swiss business partner in Matz Holdings, he also owns a Spanish real estate company that was sanctioned by the Treasury Department roughly a week after the sanctions were imposed on Hamza himself.”

On January 5th 2024 the US State Department offered a reward for information concerning Abdelbasit Hamza Elhassan Mohamed Khair.

On January 19th 2024 the European Union also announced that it had placed sanctions on Khair.

As reported by Newsweek on January 17th:

“Sudan-based multimillionaire and Hamas financier Abdelbasit Hamza Elhassan Mohamed Khair “has longstanding ties to terrorism financing, including historic ties to al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden-linked companies in Sudan,” according to a statement from the U.S. Treasury Department when it placed Khair on its sanctions list on October 18, 2023. He is the CEO and owner of Sudan-based company Zawaya Group, which was also placed on the U.S. sanctions list on October 18.

According to the U.S. Treasury Department, Kahir [Khair] also owns the Western-sounding Larrycom Investment Company, a Sudanese firm in which Hamza is a top executive. Zawaya Group and Larrycom were also put on the U.S. sanctions list on October 18. […]

Spain is at the center of what may be a bold development in the Hamas financing strategy. Osama bin Laden’s friend, Abdelbasit Khair, is the CEO of Spanish company Zawaya Group for Development Investment Sociedad Limitada, which was placed on the U.S. sanctions list on October 18. There is evidence that Hamas’ decision to move to western European companies is a new development, possibly enabling it to avoid detection in the Middle East.

Spanish company records reviewed by Newsweek show that the Spanish Zawaya Group was established in Valencia, Spain, on December 19, 2022. The company’s financial reports are not yet available.”

On January 19th the BBC Arabic website published a report tagged “Gaza war” and headlined “A Sudanese businessman was arrested in Egypt, accused by Washington of supporting Hamas” in which readers are told that:

“Mystery still surrounds the fate of Sudanese businessman Abdel Basset Hamza, whom the United States accuses of financing Hamas. An Egyptian security source and Egyptian and Sudanese media reported that the Egyptian authorities recently arrested him in Cairo.

According to the Egyptian source who spoke to the BBC on condition of anonymity, Hamza was arrested in Cairo at dawn on Monday, January 15, and is being held in an unknown location and is being investigated.

The ICIJ noted that “Al Jazeera also reported that Hamza had been arrested”.

Remarkably, English speaking members of the BBC’s audience have found no coverage whatsoever on this story, including on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’, ‘Sudan’, ‘Egypt’ or ‘Hamas’ pages.

On the general topic of Hamas financing, BBC audiences have been provided with remarkably little information.

On October 11th 2023 the BBC World Service radio programme ‘World Business Report’ aired an edition (still available online) titled “How is Hamas funded?” which mentioned [from 02:23] funding from Iran and Qatar as well as taxes, donations and the ‘syphoning off’ of humanitarian assistance but made no mention of Hamas’ investment portfolio and misled listeners with a claim from presenter Sam Fenwick that tunnels under the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt are the route via which “food and medicines, clothing…” enter the Gaza Strip.

On October 23rd 2023 the BBC News website published a Q&A in which Yolande Knell told readers that:

“The US Treasury also says that Hamas has a secret international investment portfolio, which generates large sums though its assets, estimated to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, with companies operating in Sudan, Algeria, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and other countries.”

On December 11th 2023 Spanish-speaking BBC audiences found a report by Paula Rosas titled “Foreign funds, donations, taxes and cryptocurrencies: what is known about how Hamas is financed” that later also appeared in Portuguese and in Arabic and which informs readers that:

“According to the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), Hamas has an international Investment Office with assets estimated at US$500 million.

This network would include companies in countries such as Sudan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Algeria and the United Arab Emirates, according to OFAC, which believes that the Shura Council and the Executive Committee of Hamas, its main leaders, are responsible for controlling and supervising this investment portfolio.

Last year, OFAC published a list of Hamas officials, facilitators and companies that “were used by Hamas to hide and launder funds.” Washington considers Hamas a terrorist organization and penalizes anyone who operates with the group.

Among the companies cited by the US are a Sudanese mining holding company, a Turkish real estate company and a Saudi construction company.”

To the best of our knowledge, the BBC has shown no further interest in investigating the topic of Hamas’ financial affairs. Clearly BBC audiences – and English speakers in particular – remain severely underinformed on the topic of activities in European and other countries which finance Hamas terrorism, despite related designations by Western governments including the UK.

More from Hadar Sela
Democratising the BBC
Here’s an interesting proposal from Robert Halfon, MP for Harlow, who suggests...
Read More
Join the Conversation

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: URL
Leave a comment
Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *