WASHINGTON - An Islamic charity accused of helping Osama bin Laden has raised thousands of dollars from unsuspecting U.S. companies and their employees through a tax-exempt federal program, The Post has learned.
A newsletter of the Benevolence International Foundation boasted that some Fortune 500 companies, including Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, PepsiCo, Compaq, Nokia and American Express, donated to the Illinois-based charity through matching contributions from some of their employees.
The BIF, accused by the FBI of being a major link in bin Laden's global finance network, claims it raised more than $30,000 through the matching-gift program.
"This is a clear indication that terrorists have a deep understanding of the monetary systems that work within the United States," said terrorism expert Steven Emerson, who obtained the newsletter and provided a copy to The Post.
The BIF fliers say donors are giving money for building schools and orphanages and for providing food and clothing for the poor in places like Bosnia, Chechnya and Afghanistan.
But an FBI affidavit, accompanying a federal perjury indictment this week of BIF and its director, Enaam Arnaout, quotes a secret informant within al Qaeda as saying, "Only a portion of the money withdrawn was actually used for the purposes stated by the relief organization."
"The remaining funds were provided to al Qaeda for whatever use al Qaeda deemed necessary," the affidavit said.
The matching-gift program lets employees decide which charities should be given money.
The charities must be registered as nonprofit, tax-exempt organizations, and companies are able to match and sometimes double charitable donations while writing off the donations on their taxes.
A spokeswoman for PepsiCo said, "The purpose of this program is to encourage our employees to be good citizens. It's distressing to find out that the money from the donations is not going where it was intended."
A spokesman for Microsoft, which raised $10,515, according to the BIF, said the charity is one of tens of thousands receiving contributions from Microsoft employees each year.