By Li Hai
At least $150,000 in U.S. taxpayer money went to an Islamic organization with ties to terrorism through a humanitarian organization from 2014 to 2015, a large amount of which was approved by the then-Obama administration despite being informed the Islamic organization was a sanctioned entity, a Senate report shows.
On Dec. 23, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) released a report of an investigation conducted by his staff into the relationship between World Vision, a non-profit humanitarian organization, and the Islamic Relief Agency (ISRA), an organization that has funded terrorist activities.
World Vision is a non-profit organization founded in 1950 to provide humanitarian aid to impoverished peoples in vulnerable areas across the world.
ISRA is headquartered in Sudan and has been sanctioned by the United States since 2004 “after they had funneled approximately $5 million to Maktab Al-Khidamat, the predecessor to Al-Qaeda controlled by Osama Bin Laden,” the report stated.
According to a timeline of events from the report:
- On Jan. 21, 2014, World Vision submitted a grant application to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to provide humanitarian services to some conflict-affected areas in Sudan. World Vision was subsequently awarded a grant of $723,405 to carry out the program.
- On Feb. 1, 2014, World Vision entered into an agreement with the Islamic Relief Agency (ISRA) whereby ISRA would provide humanitarian services to certain parts of the Blue Nile Region in Sudan on behalf of World Vision. Prior to this, World Vision had worked with ISRA on several projects from 2013 through 2014.
- In late September 2014, World Vision’s legal department was notified of ISRA’s potential status as a sanctioned entity. World Vision then ceased all payments to ISRA and began investigating whether ISRA was indeed a sanctioned entity.
- On Jan. 23, 2015, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) responded to World Vision’s inquiry that ISRA is indeed a sanctioned entity. OFAC denied World Vision’s request for a license to transact with ISRA in the same letter.
- On Feb. 19, 2015, World Vision again requested a license to transact with ISRA in order to pay them $125,000 for services rendered. In its request, World Vision stressed that it could face severe legal consequences and even expulsion from Sudan if it did not pay ISRA the monies owed.
- On May 4, 2015, the Obama Administration’s State Department recommended OFAC grant World Vision’s request for a license to pay ISRA $125,000 in monies owed. The following day, OFAC granted World Vision a specific license to pay ISRA $125,000 only for services rendered.
The report shows $125,000 was paid on May 7, 2015, from which $111,982 was from a United States Government (USG) grant and $9,062 was from Irish government aid.
Before that, $39,758 from United States Government (USG) grant was paid to ISRA on Aug. 31, 2014.
The report also shows almost $200,000 in total from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) was paid to ISRA as well. The United States government is one of the top contributors to UNDP, according to its official website.
Grassley’s report concluded that they “did not find any evidence that World Vision intentionally sought to circumvent U.S. sanctions by partnering with ISRA.” Nor did they find “evidence that World Vision knew that ISRA was a sanctioned entity prior to receiving notice from OFAC.”
However, the report pointed out that this failure occurred because World Vision’s vetting “ignored elementary level investigative procedures, such as failing to conduct basic secondary research” via free internet search engines or calling OFAC’s hotlines to get an accurate result.
“Moreover, although we find no reason to doubt World Vision’s assertion that the funds in their entirety were used by ISRA for humanitarian purposes, that money inevitably aids their terrorist activities,” the report stated.
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