Haifa bint Faisal
|House of Saud|
|Haifa bint Faisal bin Abdul Aziz al Saud|
Princess Haifa bint Faisal (Arabic: هيفاء بنت فيصل, also called Haifa al Faisal) is the wife of Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the former Saudi ambassador to United States, daughter of the late King Faisal and sister to foreign minister, Saud Al-Faisal. After the September 11, 2001 attacks, she was investigated for a sequence of payments allegedly made to a Saudi national by the name of Omar al-Bayoumi, who is known to have assisted two of hijackers upon their arrival in Southern California, and who himself is suspected of being a Saudi intelligence asset.
Investigation has confirmed that some of the payments were in fact forwarded to al-Bayoumi's wife, Manal Bajadr, the significance of these payments (and the extent to which they may have assisted the hijackers) is unclear.
In April 1998, Osama Basnan, a Saudi national living in California, wrote to Princess Haifa requesting money for his wife's needed thyroid surgery. Haifa sent Basnan $15,000, although his wife, Majeda Dweikat, wasn't actually treated for another two years.
At some later point (accounts vary as to when; dates between November 1999 and March 2000 have been given, and a Saudi government official has put the onset at December 4, 1999), Princess Haifa began sending monthly cashier's checks to Dweikat of either $2,000 or $3,500, transporting them through Riggs Bank. Dweikat signed some of these checks over to her friend Manal Bajadr, wife of Omar al-Bayoumi. The payments continued through May, 2002 and eventually totalled between $51,000 and $73,000. (This sort of charitable donation known as Zakat from members of the House of Saud to Saudi nationals living abroad is not particularly unusual.)
Osama Basnan had been under suspicion for many years. In 1992, the FBI had received information suggesting a connection between him and a terror group later associated with Osama bin Laden. In 1993, there were reports that Basnan hosted a party for Shaikh Omar Abdul-Rahman. According an anonymous U.S. official, Basnan "celebrated the heroes of September 11" shortly after the attacks, and talked about "what a wonderful, glorious day it had been." In interviews and investigations after the attack, Basnan has given sharply contradictory testimony about moneys received and his relationship with Bajadr and al-Bayoumi. Basnan was deported on November 17, 2002.
Omar al-Bayoumi was the husband of Manal Bajadr, who received some of the moneys from Dweikat. Al-Bayoumi had several intriguing connections to two of the hijackers: Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi. He met them in a restaurant soon after the two had first arrived in Los Angeles, and convinced them to move to San Diego. He picked out an apartment for them, co-signed the lease, and loaned them $1,500 to pay their rent.
Al-Bayoumi then moved in across the street from them and assisted them in other not-so minor ways: he helped open a bank account, obtain car insurance, get Social Security cards and call flight schools in Florida -- and also threw a welcoming party for the hijackers, during which he introduced them to the local Muslim community.
Some of al-Bayoumi's other activities -- for example, his habit of videotaping commercial and governmental facilities in the San Diego area -- were conspicuous enough to give rise to rumors that he was a Saudi agent.
Once this story became known, it was thoroughly investigated. (Some of these investigations led to the Riggs Bank scandals of 2003 and 2004.) Although there are still many questions about al-Bayoumi and Basnan, the 9/11 Commission Report asserts, in footnote 122, that the hijackers al-Midhar and al-Hazmi did not receive any funding from them: "We have found no evidence that Saudi Princess Haifa al Faisal provided any funds to the conspiracy, either directly or indirectly.". (The quote itself comes either from David D. Aufhauser of the U.S. Treasury Department, or Adam B. Drucker, of the FBI.)
The Report does not provide further detail, or primary source material that would substantiate its claim that the Faisal-Bayoumi transfers did not "directly or indirectly" assist the hijackers; it simply rests on the fact that the burden of proof for any argument that the transfers did assist the hijackers has not been met by available evidence.