Some of the most notorious jihadists in Europe used British welfare payments to fund international terrorism, including the Paris and Brussels attacks, a court has heard.
Mohamed Abrini — who became known as the “man in the hat” following the terror attack at Brussels airport in March — was handed £3,000 of taxpayers’ money by two men in Birmingham. The jihadist was sent to collect the money by Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who is thought to have been one of the masterminds of the deadly attacks across Paris just months later, in which 130 people were killed.
Birmingham resident Zakaria Bouffassil is accused of passing over the cash, which the court heard had been withdrawn from the bank account of Belgian national Anouar Haddouchi, who was claiming benefits while living in the West Midlands with his wife.
Jurors heard how, even after Haddouchi left Britain to fight with Islamic State in Syria, thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money continued to be paid into the jihadist’s account.
Mr Bouffassil, who is also a Belgian national, is also accused of handing Abrini a large sum of cash last July in a Birmingham park. He was accompanied by Mohamed Ali Ahmed, who has already admitted the charge.
On the opening day of the trial, Kingston crown court heard how British taxpayers’ money had been used by some of Europe’s most wanted terrorists not only to fund the horrific attacks on European soil but also to bankroll activities in Syria and elsewhere.
Max Hill QC, prosecuting, said: “There is no doubt that the money was handed over with the intention of assisting acts of terrorism.”
He went on: “The intention could not be more clear. Haddouchi had left the UK to fight for Daesh in Syria. Abrini came to collect the money in the UK.”
Mr Hill explained that despite Haddouchi having left Britain for Syria in the summer of 2014, the jihadist’s account “at times contained some £7,000 or more” because welfare was still being paid into the account.
The cash handed over to Abrini had been gradually withdrawn on various dates between 30 May and 23 November 2015.
The court heard that following the death of his jihadist brother in Syria in early 2015, Abrini travelled to Syria where he met with Abaaoud and was asked by the Paris terror ringleader to collect money from a contact in Birmingham.
Security sources last year disclosed that Abaaoud, who hailed from the notorious Molenbeek district of Brussels, entered the UK on a fake passport to seek logistical support from jihadis in Britain just weeks before the atrocity was committed.
Forensic evidence suggests some of the forged documents found on the Paris attackers were personally handed over on the trip, and counterterrorism sources said it’s believed money was handed over and logistics and financing discussed.