American investigators, cooperating in a probe of the January assassination of a top Palestinian leader in Dubai, have identified a handful of U.S.-based companies believed to have been used to transfer money to suspects in the case, a finding that brings international authorities closer to identifying who funded the operation.
The findings show American authorities playing a bigger role in the investigation than previously revealed. The case is especially delicate for the U.S., because Dubai police have said their prime suspect in the case is Mossad, the intelligence service of Israel, a key U.S. ally.
International investigators see money transfers made through the U.S. companies as key clues in a globe-spanning manhunt aimed at identifying more than two dozen suspects in the case, according to officials familiar with the matter.
The U.S. companies identified by investigators include Internet-based businesses that match freelance job-seekers with employers and process payments between the two sides. Authorities have identified financial transfers from several of these intermediary businesses into prepaid, cash-card accounts used by suspects in the Dubai killing, according to international investigators.
U.S. authorities say they don’t believe the intermediary companies had any way of knowing the money would be used in the plot, according to a U.S. official familiar with the investigation.
Instead, U.S. investigators believe, suspects might have posed as freelancers in order to get money in a way that obscured their funding source, and used the money for operational expenses, such as buying plane tickets.
The next step in the investigation would be to determine who the employers were in the transactions.
Representatives of several companies identified in the probe said they hadn’t been contacted by U.S. authorities and weren’t aware of any investigation.
Note that the report says “several companies” — it does not say “all the companies” — which leaves open the possibility that Payoneer, the New York-based company run by the former IDF special ops commando, Yuval Tal, is indeed under investigation.
In March Al Jazeera reported: “The UAE central bank is investigating how 24 suspects obtained credit cards from US company, Payoneer. Although registered in the US, Payoneer’s employees are mostly in Israel, this creating a stir on the internet about possible Mossad connections.”
In March, Gulf News reported:
The Payoneer connection unveils a network of links to Israel, specifically its intelligence community.
Its CEO is Yuval Tal, an Israeli citizen who, according to media reports, described himself as a former Israeli special forces commando in a 2006 Fox News interview.
Clips of the interview on video sharing websites have been removed.
However, a person who said he met Tal a couple of times but did not want to be named told Gulf News that “there is no question in my mind that Yuval has contacts with [Israel’s spy agency] Mossad”.
He recalled a conversation Tal had with attendees of a Jewish charity event in New York, where he spoke of his connections with Mossad.
“Yuval was entertaining a small group of people with tales of his IDF [Israeli Defence Forces] exploits… Specifically, he was commending Israeli intelligence and how Mossad and [Israel’s internal security agency] Shin Bet always gave him great information on his commando raids. He said his ‘colleagues’ are tracking [Hamas leaders Khaled] Mesha’al and [Esmail] Haniyeh’s movements almost every day,” he said.
Payoneer is held by three venture capital firms: Greylock Partners, Carmel Ventures, and Crossbar Capital.
Greylock, which has offices in the US, India and Herzliya, Israel, was established by Moshe Mor, a former military intelligence captain in the Israeli army.
Carmel Ventures is an Israeli venture capital fund based in Herzliya. Crossbar Partners is run by Charlie Federman, who is also managing director of the BRM Group, a venture capital fund also in Herzliya that was founded by Nir and Eli Barkat, the former of whom is the mayor of occupied Jerusalem.