Saturday, June 21, 2014

Chiheb Battikh and the Muslim Brotherhood: Drawing the Links between Kidnapping and Organizational Fund Raising

The Montreal newspaper Journal de Montreal  published a story on 21 June 2014 on the kidnapping of the grandson of a Montreal billionaire (story by journalist Andew McIntosh).   The story raises the question of whether or not the kidnapper had an accomplice and if the kidnapper was from the Muslim Brotherhood.  The full story is at:  

The kidnapper is Chiheb Battikh who first came to the attention of the TSEC research report on the Muslim Brotherhood in North America in February 2014. This was due to his role as a member of the board of directors of the Muslim Association of Canada (MAC) and on its executive committee.  Mr. Battikh's leadership roles as well as his position as director of education at the MAC mark him as an influential figure. Within a Muslim Brotherhood oriented organization, the roles of dawah and education are among the primary missions.  The MAC has an extensive education network with considerable infrastructure.

Chiheb Battikh (photo Jounal de Montreal)

In addition to his role as director of education for the MAC, Mr Battikh also played leadership roles in the Springs of Knowledge  program of the MAC as well as the Canadian Institute of Islamic Civilization (CIIC). He was also on the board of directors of the Le Savoir School in Montreal.

Perhaps Mr. Battikh's most important activity in 2011 and 2012 was his  role in the aquisition of a building in downtown Montreal to serve as the home for the CIIC.  The property is at 615 rue Belmont.  In years gone by, this six story building was the HQ of the SNC corporation.  The deal between the MAC and the building's owner appears to have failed in late 2011 and early 2012 which resulted in court action in the Superior Court in Montreal with one order dated 15 February 2012.

While conducting research on Mr. Battikh and his educational roles and in the building's acquisition, it became apparent that the "Chiheb Battikh" of the MAC was the same "Chiheb Battikh" who was arrested for kidnapping in Montreal in December 2012.  Additionally, the Tunis Tribune, based in Paris,  identified him as being "close to Enhahda" or the Muslim Brotherhood in Tunisia.  (Mr Battikh was originally from Tunisia).

At that point (mid-February 2014), the TSEC research began to put a number of issues in context. 

1.  The Muslim Brotherhood as a whole in 2011 and 2012 was becoming increasingly assertive and aggresive as its role in the Arab Spring, the Tunisian Revolution and the Egyptian Revolution began to grow.
2.  At the same time (late 2012) funding for various Muslim Brotherhood projects around the world may have begun to feel pressure from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  Although the Saudis had funded the Brotherhood for years, the funding and support were fading fast in 2012.
3.  The CIIC building acquisition project being run by the MAC (and Mr. Battikh) was in serious trouble.  Money and the transfer of ownership seemed a bit "murky" as seen through the court documents.
4.  Mr. Battikh was involved in a kidnapping for profit which appeared to coincide with his MAC money problems.

As such, the TSEC research began to ask the question:  Was the Montreal kidnapping of a three year old grandson of a rich Montreal businessman from Outremont a matter of kidnapping for personal profit or for organizational fund raising?

At that point (early March 2014), TSEC began to privately share these concerns with others both inside and outside of government circles and the press.  It seemed incredible that a kidnapping of a three year old in Canada could have been done for the purposes of fund raising for an organization.  However, considerable circumstantial evidence appeared to point in that direction. 

As it turns out, an investigation by the press in Montreal (Andrew McIntosh) has put together a considerable amount of evidence that grave concerns exist about the case.  Was there an accomplice? Who had the "other" walkie-talkie?  Who was being called on a 1-600 number just before the kidnapping?  Why was Mr. Battikh headed to Saudi Arabia not long after the kidnapping attempt? Why did he lie about the start date of the planning for the kidnapping?

All told, there is sufficient evidence to suggest that some further form of inquiry or investigation be conducted to close off the loose ends in the case and to assure Canadians that the details of the cases are in fact known.

Additionally, this case will again raise questions about the role of national level intelligence.  It is clear that the Montreal Police (SPVM) appears to have missed significant investigative opportunities.  However, it is also a problem that the "centre" of the Canadian intelligence community does not communicate information down to the front lines.  The SPVM would no doubt pick up on any organized crime, drug or biker related crime activity in such as case.  However, it is not at all clear that municipal police forces in general are being fed the necessary intelligence to allow them to recognize such issues.

At this point, the "centre" of the Canadian intelligence community needs to truly start sharing intelligence with the front lines and recognize that the best information usually is available close to the front lines of enforcement and intelligence.  Alternatively, the major police forces in Canada may need to adopt the New York City model and start creating their own small intelligence cells to better deal with such issues and then share with each other.

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