Thursday, November 24, 2016

British man, 27, admits giving £3,000 to the 'man in the hat' accused of launching the Brussels terror attacks which killed 32 people

Mohammed Ali Ahmed, 27, admits giving the cash to Mohamed Abrini
  • But Zakaria Boufassil denies preparing for acts of terrorism, jury told
  • Abrini became known as ‘the man in the hat’ after March's terror attack

  • Suspect: Mohamed Abrini became known as ¿the man in the hat¿ after his suspected involvement in March's Brussels terror attack
    Suspect: Mohamed Abrini became known as ‘the man in the hat’ after his suspected involvement in March's Brussels terror attack

    A British national has admitted giving £3,000 to the Brussels terror attack suspect known as ‘man in the hat’, it was revealed today.

    Mohammed Ali Ahmed, 27, and Belgian Zakaria Boufassil, 26, allegedly both handed the cash to Mohamed Abrini in Birmingham to fund terrorist acts.

    Ahmed has admitted giving the money to Abrini, while Boufassil denies one count of preparing for acts of terrorism, the jury at Kingston Crown Court in South West London was told today. 

    Abrini, who is of Moroccan heritage, became known as ‘the man in the hat’ following his suspected involvement in March's attack that left 32 people dead.

    Ahmed and Boufassil, from Birmingham, are accused of handing over £3,000 in cash to Abrini in July 2015 when he travelled to the Midlands from abroad.

    Prosecutor Max Hill QC told jurors Ahmed had pleaded guilty to the same charge on November 8 and said this would become relevant to them when determining if the case against Boufassil had been established.

    After telling jurors Boufassil denied sharing Ahmed's intention, Mr Hill said: ‘We suggest he was clearly acting together with Ahmed when the money was handed to Abrini.

    ‘We suggest that Mr Boufassil committed this offence together with Ahmed, and he is as guilty as his co-defendant Ahmed.

    ‘That will be for you to decide when you've heard all of the evidence.’

    Mr Hill said Abrini was also wanted by the French authorities over his ‘suspected involvement’ in the Paris attacks of November 2015.

    The 31-year-old Belgian citizen's brother had been killed fighting for the so-called Islamic State in Syria, he added.

    Mr Hill said telecommunications evidence suggested there was a ‘convergence’ of the three men near Small Heath Park in Birmingham on July 10 last year.

    He said jurors would have to consider why the trio had been in proximity but did not meet.

    ‘One explanation for that which you may want to consider is that Ahmed and Mr Boufassil watched Abrini,’ he told the jury.

    He suggested it was possible the pair wanted to check Abrini was alone and not being followed.

    Mr Hill alleged that July 11 was the day of the ‘pre-arranged cash handover meeting’ and the phones being used by the men converged at around 3.30pm at the same park.

    ‘You can be sure that Ahmed, Abrini and the defendant Mr Boufassil met that day. That was the handover of the money by Ahmed and Mr Boufassil to Abrini,’ he told the jury.

    The court heard Abrini was interviewed by Belgian investigators on April 20 and 21 this year and told them he had travelled to Syria via Istanbul, Turkey, to visit his brother's grave.

    Mr Hill said that while there, Abrini recalled meeting a man called ‘Abaaoud’ who asked him to collect some money in the UK and supplied him with phone numbers.

    Abrini was instructed to travel to Birmingham the day after he arrived in London, the court heard.

    He was told to go to Small Heath Park ‘several times’ only to find no one there, but on his third day in Birmingham was led to a forest to collect the money.

    The jury was told Abrini described Ahmed as the man who guided him to the location and Boufassil as the one who handed over the money in a bag.

    ‘During the meeting, Zakaria told him that it had taken so long to meet him because he had to verify with Syria that he was not an imposter and that he was the person that had been sent by Abaaoud from Syria to pick up the money,’ Mr Hill told the court.

    The money was withdrawn from a bank account held by Anwar Haddouchi, who previously lived in Birmingham, he said.

    Mr Hill said Haddouchi was an associate of Ahmed who had left the UK before July 2015 and travelled to Syria to fight for Islamic State (Daesh).

    He told the court: ‘This is the money which was handed over to Abrini by Ahmed and Mr Boufassil.

    ‘The intention could not be more clear. Haddouchi had left the UK to fight for Daesh in Syria.

    ‘Abrini had come to collect the money in the UK. The destination of the money would certainly include Syria - it would appear Daesh, also known as Islamic State - either to Haddouchi himself or to other fighters.’

    He told the court: ‘There is no doubt that the money was handed over with the intention of assisting acts of terrorism.’

    The case continues.

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