The U.S. State Department is offering up to $10 million for information on five accused Hamas financiers, including Sudanese businessman Abdelbasit Hamza whose extensive business ties in Europe were recently exposed by ICIJ and Israeli news outlet Shomrim.
The department announced on Friday that it was seeking any information that could be used to identify and disrupt the financial networks underpinning the Palestinian militant group, designated a terrorist organization by the United States.
Hamza, an ally of former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, was sanctioned by the U.S. following the Oct. 7 terror attack on Israel for managing Hamas investments and for his involvement in the transfer of almost $20 million to the organization. Israel’s subsequent military retaliation in Gaza for the attack has killed more than 20,000 people, according to Gazan health authorities.
The almost $20 million sum included directed payments to a senior Hamas financial officer, according to the State Department. Hamza is also accused by the U.S. of having “longstanding financing ties” to al-Qaida and its founder Osama bin Laden through companies in Sudan.
In December, an investigation by ICIJ and Shomrim revealed that Hamza has maintained business operations in Europe for nearly two decades, including owning a lucrative stake in a Cyprus-based holding company that mines Egyptian gold.
The investigation was based on leaked Cyprus Confidential documents, which detailed Hamza’s ownership interest in the holding company, Matz Holdings, in partnership with a Swiss firm. Matz Holding’s assets totaled roughly $35 million as of 2018, ICIJ and Shomrim found.
The 3.6 million leaked files at the heart of the Cyprus Confidential investigation come from six financial services providers and a website company.
The providers are: ConnectedSky, Cypcodirect, DJC Accountants, Kallias & Associates, MeritKapital, and MeritServus in Cyprus. The MeritServus and MeritKapital records were obtained by Distributed Denial of Secrets. Leaked records from Cypcodirect, ConnectedSky and i-Cyprus were obtained by Paper Trail Media. In the case of Kallias & Associates, the documents were obtained from Distributed Denial of Secrets, which shared them with Paper Trail Media and ICIJ. DJC Accountants’ records were obtained by Distributed Denial of Secrets and shared by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project. The partner organizations shared all the leaked records in the project with ICIJ, which structured, stored and translated them from several languages before sharing them with journalists from around the world. Additional records came from Latvia-based Dataset SIA, which maintains the i-Cyprus website, through which it sells information about Cyprus companies, including Cyprus corporate registry documents.
Following al-Bashir’s fall from power in 2019, Hamza sold a significant portion of his shares in Matz Holdings but maintains a 10% stake through the Zawaya Group for Development and Investment, a Sudan-based company that was sanctioned alongside a Spanish real estate company by the U.S. Treasury Department in October. Hamza is the beneficial owner of both, according to Treasury.
In written responses to ICIJ and Shomrim, Hamza denied any connections to Hamas or al-Qaida and that he had transferred money to the Hamas official. He added that he had no relationship with a separate Sudan-based real estate company the U.S. has claimed he used to launder money and generate revenue for Hamas.
The Cypriot government responded to ICIJ and Shomrim’s investigation within days, with a spokesperson telling local media the revelations were being assessed by authorities. Hamza is not currently sanctioned by the European Union.
The reward offered by the U.S. follows four rounds of sanctions targeting Hamas and may be provided for information on the organization’s revenue sources or key financial backers, as well as financial institutions that facilitate its transactions.
Hamza was named in the State Department’s announcement along with three Hamas operatives involved in Hamas’ investment network in Turkey and one operative linked to Iranian entities.
The four others are Amer Kamal Sharif Alshawa, Ahmed Sadu Jahleb, Walid Mohammed Mustafa Jadallah and Muhammad Ahmad ‘Abd Al-Dayim Nasrallah. All five were previously designated global terrorists by Treasury.
Clarification, Jan. 9, 2024: This story has been updated to clarify that the State Department announcement about the $10 million reward was made in January. The U.S. Rewards for Justice Program separately publicized the reward last year.