x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

FBI keeping quiet on credit cards

FBI refuses to say whether it is investigating US-issued credit cards used by killers of Mahmoud al Mabhouh.

Some of the false identities with which suspects in the murder of Mahmoud al Mabhouh obtained credit cards from a US bank.
Some of the false identities with which suspects in the murder of Mahmoud al Mabhouh obtained credit cards from a US bank.

The FBI was tight-lipped yesterday about whether it is investigating the origins of 13 credit cards issued by an Iowa bank that Dubai Police say were used to facilitate the assassination of Mahmoud al Mabhouh. The cards were issued by MetaBank, which has 12 branches in Iowa and offices in South Dakota and Nebraska. Officials from the bank could not be reached for comment last night.

Dubai Police said false identities had been assigned to the cards. They were issued to suspects using the names Eric Rassineaux, David Bernard Lapierre, Mark Sklar, Stephen Drake, Adam Korman, Graham Jonathan Louis, Paul John Keeley, James Leonard Clarke, Stephen Daniel Hodes, Daniel Marc Schnur, Philip Carr, Roy Cannon, Joshua Daniel Bruce, Gail Folliard and Anna Shauna Clasby. Contacted at its offices in South Dakota, Iowa and the US capital, the FBI would neither confirm nor deny it was investigating the cards or their link to the killing.

"As there was no crime committed here, there would have to be a formal request [from the authorities in Dubai] for the FBI to be involved in the investigation," a representative for the FBI in Washington said. The representative would not say whether such a request has been made. All of the cards used were MasterCards. To obtain such a card requires both an account with the bank and an in-person appearance.

A security expert in the UK said the information embossed on the face of the credit cards was not as important as the data stored on the magnetic strip on their back. "You can make a plastic card with any name on it. What matters is the information in this card; it could link to an account in a different name," said Justin Crump, the director of threat intelligence at Stirling Assynt International Group.

Analysts said the US connection adds another dimension to the plot, as it would have required someone there to have participated in the operation. "Someone in the States would have had to open an account for them," Mr Crump said. The FBI has a legal attaché office at the US Embassy in Abu Dhabi, although it is not known whether they have been asked by Dubai Police to be part of the investigation. Their agents here could not be reached for comment.

The suspected who used the name Peter Elvinger and whom police have identified as the ringleader of the operation, was using a credit card issued by DZ Bank, which is based in Germany. myoussef@thenational.ae