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Thursday, July 06, 2006

So why not Timothy, Terry and Eric, or for that matter, George, Donald and Dick?

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - Money transfer agencies have delayed or blocked thousands of cash deliveries on suspicion of terrorist connections simply because senders or recipients have names like Mohammed or Ahmed, company officials said.

In one example, an Indian driver here said Western Union prevented him from sending $120 to a friend at home last month because the recipient's name was Mohammed.

"Western Union told me that if I send money to Sahir Mohammed, the money will be blocked because of his name," said 36-year-old Abdul Rahman Maruthayil, who later sent the money through UAE Exchange, a Dubai-based money transfer service.

Dubai-based representatives from Western Union Financial Services, an American company based in Colorado, and Minnesota-based MoneyGram International, said their clerks are simply following U.S. Treasury Department guidelines that scrutinize cash flows for terrorist links. Most of the flagged transactions are delayed for a few hours. Some are blocked entirely.
In Washington, U.S. Treasury spokeswoman Molly Millerwise said foreign banks have used the department's list of terrorist names to freeze $150 million in assets since Sept. 11. Millerwise didn't know the value of money transfers blocked using the list, but said frustrations endured were regrettable but necessary.

"We have an obligation to do all we can to keep money out of the hands of terrorists," Millerwise said.

The list of names, available on the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control Web site, contains hundreds of Mohammeds.
Unlike the list of alleged 9/11 hijackers, which only contained one.

One Western Union worker in Dubai has figured out how to get around this, and I swear I'm not making this up:
"Mohammed and Ahmed have become problematic names because they are so common on the list of terrorists," said Nixon Baby, who runs a Western Union franchise in Bur Dubai, a neighborhood packed with South Asian businesses. "These are regulations that Western Union is required to obey. We have no control."
That's Nixon Baby, formerly Osama Saddam al-Zarqawi. He says he sends money to his sister Condoleezza all the time without any problems. Okay, that part I made up.