BBC documentary reveals Hamas’s financial empire

Terror group tunnels subsidised by international aid says expert in BBC documentary


Hamid Abdullah al-Ahmar with Hamas leader Ismail Haniya (Photo: BBC iPlayer)

A documentary has described the “vast amounts of money” kept outside Gaza that Hamas uses to fund its terror operations.

The BBC Panorama episode presented by journalist John Ware aired on Monday evening and detailed part of Hamas’s financial operation, which includes using funding from international aid agencies to pay for basic government costs so that other streams of income could be used to pay for its military.

While billions arrived from international aid agencies, the United Nations, and the European Union, to spend on humanitarian aid, Hamas could spend the money from other sources – such as taxes and Qatari and Iranian funding – on military operations.

The documentary makers were granted access to documents that Israeli intelligence say are from inside Hamas and reveal how the terror group make some of its millions. The documents cover an investment portfolio of over 40 companies from 2018 worth around $0.5 billion.

The US treasury has said that the companies listed in the documents “generated vast sums of revenue” while Gaza faces “harsh living and economic conditions.”

In Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Egypt, the Gulf, and elsewhere, companies with links to Hamas were involved in road construction, real estate and tourism, amongst other industries.

The US designated six of the companies as being directly, or indirectly, owned by Hamas.

Tom Keatinge, from the Centre for Financial Crime Studies at RUSI, said the companies were "a way of an organisation like Hamas keeping its money outside Gaza in a safe store... and at the same time earning an income.”

One of the listed companies, Trend, was run by Hamid Abdullah al-Ahmar who is connected to Hamas and its leadership. Al-Ahmar praised October 7 as “a sweeping and roaring flood that will never stop until the occupation of beloved Palestine is defeated.”

Al-Ahmar stood down as chair of Trend in November 2022 but remains the head of its parent company.

Some of the wealth that sustains Hamas is stored in Turkey, which Keatinge describes as “a home for financial experts that support, either directly or indirectly, Hamas.”

Keatinge highlighted the financial power of the companies and said, “The financial leadership could walk out of the job that they do for a terrorist organisation into a FTSE100 leadership position”.

He went on, “If the international community is supporting Hamas to pay the salaries of bureaucrats, for example, that’s money Hamas doesn't have to spend on bureaucrats; it’s money it can use on other issues – like building tunnels, like arming it’s military.”

The financial crime expert said it was a “fair assessment” that parts of the donor world had been subsiding Hamas’s war machine.

Micha Koubi, a former Israeli security agency officer who interviewed Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, said Sinwar “was [a] really charismatic man, he was smart; it’s a pity that all his mind was about how to kill Jews and infidels. That was his mind, full of hate to the Jew and to the infidels.”

Koubi said, “From jail, Sinwar was secretly forging links with Iran to try and beat the blockade.”

According to the former security officer, Sinwar sent messages to Isran asking for weapons and training. Sinwar was filmed saying, “If it were not for Iran’s support for the resistance in Palestine, we would not have these capabilities.”

In 2011 along with over 1000 Palestinian prisoners, Sinwar was released from Israeli jail in the Gilad Shalit exchange.

During the documentary, Ware described: “While Iran was funding Hamas, cash was also pouring in from another source: the Gulf State of Qatar. Hamas needed money to pay government salaries, some of it was delivered in cash with Israel’s blessing.”

Udi Levy was head of economic warfare for Mossad until 2016. Levy described: “The Qataris had a special envoy that came every month with a private jet, enters Gaza with a suitcase, gives it to Hamas, says hello and goes back – that's it.”

Levy said that while Hamas were in charge, “nobody knew exactly what was going on – how much money they practically gave to the people.”

Hamas raises significant sums from taxing goods crossing the blockade – according to Levy everything going in and out of the strip has a 30% tax which goes straight to the terror group.

The Panorama explains that some in Israeli intelligence believe the war could have been avoided if the finances of the terror group were destroyed.

“An opportunity was missed some years ago to throttle the Hamas military machine by going after its finance empire”

Levy said that he told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “many times” that his Mossad group had the "financial tools” to cripple Hamas. He alleged that when he brought the Hamas portfolio to Netanyahu's attention, the PM said “Ok thank you” but did not act on the intelligence.

In 2019, Netanyahu told his party that the key to his strategy was keeping Hamas in power but has more recently denied helping to build up the terror group.

Levy believes that a financial attack on the terrorists could have prevented “the monster that Hamas built”.

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