Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 November 2019

Suspected Al Qaeda financier impervious to its austere creed

On a handsome salary, Khalifa Al Subaiy displayed a taste for worldly pleasures

A photo posted by Khalifa al-Subaiy on his @khalifa_alsubaey Instagram account.
A photo posted by Khalifa al-Subaiy on his @khalifa_alsubaey Instagram account.

For a man who likes fast cars and wild animals, Khalifa Al Subaiy cuts an unusual figure, even in the murky world of Al Qaeda operatives.

A decade ago, the former Qatari Central Bank staffer was placed under international sanctions for financing Al Qaeda, with few practical consequences.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that he was able to draw on his savings at a rate of $10,000 a month, made possible by UN loopholes and divisions within the world organisation that made it a relatively minor player in curbing political violence.

Qatar, where Al Subaiy is believed to live, is a close US ally but since the dispute with its Arab Gulf neighbours broke out two years ago, it pursued deeper ties with Russia and Iran and while largely staying on the good side of Washington.

But Qatar has ties with the Taliban and has tried, without avail, to broker a diplomatic breakthrough in the Afghanistan stalemate.

With Iran, it backs the Palestinian group Hamas and had significant channels to Al Qaeda in Syria before it was forced to leave under US pressure.

Born in the mid-1960s, Al Subaiy is suspected of helping to fund the orchestrator of the September 11 attacks on the US along with other Al Qaeda figures.

He skirted UN sanctions by tapping into his frozen bank accounts beyond limits sometimes allowed for basic needs, the Journal reported.

Little is known about Al Subaiy but a photo posted on Instagram shows him holding a lion on a leash in front of a villa with the a black Corvette in the driveway.

Such hard play is sometimes seen among extremists regardless of their ideology.

In Syria, some of the most high-profile shabbiha, or ghost militia, backing President Bashar Al Assad boast about their lions and muscle cars. One even fed a horse to his caged lion last year, filming the lion eating the animal alive.

The US and the UN say Al Subaiy had links with other Al Qaeda "facilitators" in Pakistan, Iran and elsewhere in Asia.

He was jailed in Qatar in 2008 for six months, The US was angry about the lenient sentence.

If he is still in Qatar, Al Subaiy appears to be quite comfortable. Displays of worldly pleasures on social media had not apparently prevented him from using the medium to raise money.

Al Subaiy had active profiles on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and used them as “platforms to communicate with followers and endorse fundraising campaigns, among other activities”, said a 2016 report by US risk assessment firm the Camstoll Group.

The report included an Instagram photo of Al Subaiy in the driver's seat of a blue supercar.

Another photo was a snapshot of his Twitter profile, showing a Lamborghini Huracan with the caption: “I cause harm and you God are the most merciful."

A search for the same account resulted in a message indicating that it no longer existed.

Updated: June 22, 2019 10:08 AM

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