By Rana Armanous and Robert Kim
January 9, 2023
A Sri Lankan gemstone company that was key to sanctioned terrorist facilitator Ahmed Luqman Talib’s revenue generation in support of al-Qaida continued doing business after Talib was sanctioned and arrested.
Talib and a gemstone business that he owned in Australia were sanctioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury in October 2020, an action followed by his arrest by Australian police in 2021 and the designation of two of his relatives and business associates more recently by the U.S. government in November 2022.
International Shipments of Gemstones
Right Gems, a gemstone trading company based in Sri Lanka, was a key partner in Talib’s revenue generation to support al-Qaida. The trading company shares an address in the south-west coast of Sri Lanka with Mohammed Haris Nizar, who is one of Talib’s relatives and business partners most recently sanctioned by the U.S. government on November 9.
In the fall of 2020, Right Gems shipped precious stones worth more than USD 100,000 to Talib and Sons Pty Ltd, the Australian gemstone company owned by Talib that was sanctioned in 2020, according to trade data reviewed by Kharon. Talib’s and Nizar’s business dealings in Sri Lanka have generated nearly $200,000 per year in profit since 2018, and the majority of Talib’s income was derived from one-third of those proceeds, according to the Treasury. Right Gems continued to ship products to customers in 2021 after Ahmed Talib and his company were sanctioned by the U.S. government.
The international trail of Talib’s al-Qaida facilitation network extends into South America. Al-Qaida facilitator Ahmed Talib was also a managing partner of the Brazil-based company Ottoman Trade Caravan Importacao e Exportacao Ltda. in 2020, according to corporate data. Another manager of Ottoman Trade Caravan is Kais Altabbaa, who simultaneously worked for Brazilian jewelry business Aisha Stones, which shares an address and telephone numbers with Ottoman Trade Caravan. Altabbaa himself sold and shipped repeated small amounts of rough gemstones to Right Gems in December 2020, according to trade data reviewed by Kharon.
Global Gemstone Trade and Terrorist Financing Risks
Terrorist financing risks of trade in precious metals and stones were the subjects of both the U.S. anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) rule for dealers in precious metals, stones, or jewels, adopted in 2005, and the 2008 Financial Action Task Force (FATF) guidance on the risk-based approach to AML/CFT for dealers in precious metals and stones.
More than a decade later, these terrorist financing risks continue to draw the attention of U.S. and international authorities.