April 4 (UPI) — The Justice Department on Tuesday settled with a Norwegian non-profit that sent U.S. government aid to groups designated as terrorist organizations by the U.S. government.
The Norwegian People’s Aid, headquartered in Oslo, Norway, received several grants from the U.S. Agency for International Development between 2012 and 2016 to provide aid in developing countries in the Middle East and Africa. But the Department of Justice said some of that money provided material support to Iran, Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine — all of which are on the State Department’s Sponsors of Terrorism List.
But when applying for the grant money, the NPA signed forms assuring that it was not providing aid to organizations banned by the United States. Doing so violated the False Claims Act and the organization agreed to pay $2.025 million.
“For years, Norwegian People’s Aid obtained grant money from USAID by falsely representing that it had not provided, and would take reasonable steps to ensure that it did not knowingly provide, material support to prohibited parties under U.S. law,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said in a statement.
According to the Department of Justice, the NPA provided “training and expert advice or assistance” to the banned organizations.
In Iran, the group conducted a mine clearing project that was “integral to an Iranian oil development project,” the Justice Department said.
In some aspects of the project, the NPA coordinated with the Iranian military.
With Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the NPA funded a project that encouraged civic participation titled “Youth of Today…Leaders of Tomorrow.”
“Through this project, young people in the Gaza Strip, aged 15 through 28, who were affiliated with one of the project’s partner political parties, received training aimed at making them more effective participants in the political process,” the Justice Department said. “Such training included programs intended to improve the participants’ ability to organize, debate, negotiate, advocate for their positions, and resolve conflicts.”
The Justice Department said this is the second over the past year it brought forth against an aid organization misusing USAID funds. The previous case was against the American University of Beirut, which paid a $700,000 settlement for violating the False Claims Act in March 2017.