Man jailed for sending money from Waterford to Islamic State

Hassan Bal also attempted to raise funds for terror group but was caught by media sting

An Islamic State emblem in Mosul, Iraq. A man who tried to go to fight for Isis in Syria has been jailed for 2.5½years for transferring money to and attempting to raise funds for the terrorist organisation. Image: iStock.

An Islamic State emblem in Mosul, Iraq. A man who tried to go to fight for Isis in Syria has been jailed for 2.5½years for transferring money to and attempting to raise funds for the terrorist organisation. Image: iStock.

 

A man who tried to go to fight for Islamic State (Isis) in Syria has been jailed for 2½ years for transferring money to and attempting to raise funds for the terrorist organisation.

Hassan Bal (26) pleaded guilty to unlawfully transferring €400 to Stevo Maksimovic in Brako, Bosnia on October 2nd, 2015 in the knowledge that the money would be used for the benefit of Isis.

He also pleaded guilty to communicating by phone on October 23rd, 2015 with an intermediary in London in an attempt to collect cash for Isis.

Noel Whelan BL, prosecuting, told Waterford Circuit Criminal Court that the offences were the first of their kind to come before the Irish courts and carried a maximum sentence of 20 years.

Supt Anthony Pettit said the offences came to light after an investigative reporter with the Daily Mail in London, Omar Wahid, posted a message on the social media service Kik using the pseudonym Omar Abu Azid in which he said he had money available to support Isis.

Mr Wahid was replied to by an Omar Hussein, who gave him a contact for an Isis operative in Syria named Abu Issa Amriki. Over the course of several messages, Mr Wahid was told he could send money via electronic transfer but he was reluctant to do so.

Mr Abu Azid instead asked if he could hand over the money and Amriki told him to contact Abdul Rahman Britani, who would arrange the drop-off in London in October 2015. Britani was actually Bal, who was based in Waterford.

Bal contacted his brother Omar and asked him to meet Mr Abu Azid. Bal led his brother to believe the money was for a charity and when the London Metropolitan Police later questioned Omar Bal, they accepted he was unaware of the terrorist link and never charged him with any offence.

Envelope

Mr Abu Azid had put a guide book rather than £1,000 in the envelope he gave to Omar Bal. When Hassan Bal discovered he had been duped, he contacted Hussein and Amriki, who then realised they were the subject of a sting when the Daily Mail published a story about them.

Gardaí were alerted by the London Metropolitan police and arrested Bal in Waterford on December 22nd, 2015. They seized his phone and found a message sent to Hussein which said, “I swear brother, get me some toys and I will go straight to the Daily Mail”.

During a search of Bal’s home, gardaí found a Western Union money transfer receipt for €400, which he had sent to Maksimovic in Bosnia.

He admitted sending the money and arranging the cash drop off but insisted it was a fraud for his own benefit or else for charity. However, an analysis of his phone and computers found further evidence indicating the money was intended for the terror group.

Imitation pistol

A photograph of Bal in combat gear with an imitation pistol was found on a USB stick and gardaí also found more than 400 messages on Bal’s phone that had been sent via Kik to Hussein and Amriki.

After being arrested again on April 27th, 2017 following the analysis of the devices, Bal admitted that the money he sent to Bosnia and the London drop off he arranged aimed to gather money for Isis, Supt Pettit said.

Supt Pettit told Giollaiosa O Lideadha SC, for Bal, that the guilty plea had spared the State a complex and difficult trial.

Judge Eugene O’Kelly said he believed an appropriate sentence for attempting to collect funds for Isis was 4½ years when the all the aggravating and mitigating factors were taken into account. He said the appropriate sentence for transferring the €400 was three years.

However, given that Bal had taken part in a deradicalisation programme, the judge suspended two years of each term on condition that he have nothing more to do with radical Islamic groups promoting violence.