Syria aid convoys used to transport terrorists’ money & property, court hears

Four men accused of using aid convoys bound for Syria to transport ‘items for terrorists’ are standing trial at the Old Bailey in London.

Syed Hoque, 37, of Stoke-on-Trent, allegedly sent £3,000 and an additional £1,500 on December 21, 2013, Syed Hoque, 37, of Stoke-on-Trent, allegedly sent £4,500, to his nephew who was fighting the government of Bashar Assad.

Hoque is also accused of making “other property” available between December 1, 2012, and May 31, 2014, along with three other men: Mashoud Miah, 27, of east London; Mohammed Hussain, 30, of east London; and Pervez Rafiq, 46, of Birkby, Huddersfield.

All four men have denied the charges, and Hoque has also refuted two additional counts of funding terrorism.

Prosecutor Annabel Darlow QC said: “The defendants made use, or so it would appear, of aid convoys as a means of moving money and other property out of the UK to Syria.

Darlow added that the prosecution was not suggesting the convoys did not have a legitimate charitable purpose.

Normal routes are not much use when you look at Syria. So if you do want to get property or money out to Syria, the convoys would have provided a useful conduit. And you may think that an abuse of the spirit of the convoys to convey the money and property to terrorists,” she said.

The court heard that a detailed analysis of Hoque’s mobile phone, which was obtained when he and his wife were stopped at Heathrow Airport after returning from Bangladesh on August 5, 2014, revealed that he had been communicating with a person known as Sayyaf on WhatsApp.

This man was later found to be Hoque’s nephew, Mohammed Choudhury, who was using a Turkish phone number while fighting in Syria on behalf of the group then known as Al-Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria that has now ‘rebranded’ and renamed themselves Jabhat Fateh al-Sham.

The jury heard that the messages revealed Hoque had been giving Choudhury money and they had talked about buying a Dragunov sniper rifle, an AK assault rifle, and a nightscope for him.

Mr. Hoque actively encouraged Choudhury in these goals and repeatedly both provided and offered to provide financial and other support to Choudhury,” Darlow told the court, adding that Hoque had even attempted to rein in some of Choudhury’s worst behavior, advising him to behead his enemies, but not to mutilate their bodies.

Miah, who also faces terrorism-related charges, stands accused of facilitating the transport of items to Syria, as he has spent a lot of time in the country.

Also known as Abu Esa, he and Hoque were in contact with Hussain. It is alleged that Hussein passed along some items on Miah’s list to Rafiq on October 2, 2013. Rafiq then set out in a charity convoy to Syria.

The prosecution said there was no direct evidence as to what items were passed between the men.

Darlow said: “It is the case for the prosecution that each of these four defendants involved themselves in an arrangement – and in Mr. Hoque’s case, more than one arrangement – by which property was to be made available to those fighting in Syria in the conflict against the existing regime.

In the case of Syed Hoque, the property included money intended at least in part to be used to provide a firearm to his nephew, who was fighting out in Syria and fighting with the purpose of overthrowing the existing regime in Syria.

Each of the defendants also became involved in an arrangement to obtain items which included a satellite phone, satnavs and sophisticated ballistics software.”