- Prominent businessman and member of the Saudi royal family
- A founding member of the Al Shamal Islamic Bank, which was established by Osama bin Laden
- Founder of the Dallah Al Baraka Group, a Middle East business conglomerate with ties to al Qaeda
- Died on May 18, 2020
Born in 1941 in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Saleh Abdullah Kamel is a member of the Saudi Royal Family. After earning a bachelor’s degree in Commerce from the University of Riyadh in 1963, he went on to become a prominent businessman and a high-ranking authority in the field of Islamic economics.
In 1969 Kamel founded the Dallah Al Baraka Group (DBHC), one of the Middle East’s largest business conglomerates, and subsequently served as its chairman. In 1982 he created Al Baraka Islamic Bank — a.k.a. Al Baraka Investment and Development — a holding company for numerous Islamic banks, financial institutions, and corporations in a wide range of industries. The Wall Street Journal reported in the 1980s that U.S. intelligence and counterterrorism officials believed that DBHC was linked to financial transactions by suspected al-Qaeda members. According to a $1 trillion lawsuit filed in 2002 by the families of those who had died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks against the United States:
- “The practice and policy of [DBHC] and al Baraka Bank is to provide financial support and material assistance to international terrorist organizations including al Qaeda.”
- “Early in the formation of al Qaeda, at a time when its objective was global Jihad, warfare and bloodshed envisaging terrorist attacks against ‘Western’ targets, Osama bin Laden
received financial support from a group of wealthy donors from the Gulf areas known as the Golden Chain. The list of donors includes Defendants Ibrahim Afandi, Saleh Kamel, Bin
Mahfouz, and Al-Rajhi.”
In 1983 Kamel was a founding member and an original shareholder of the Al Shamal Islamic Bank, a Muslim bank in the Sudan that was originally established by Osama bin Laden to fund jihadi fighters around the globe.
In addition to the aforementioned positions and activities, Kamel served variously as:
- Board Chairman of the Arab Radio & Television Network, which he founded in 1993
- Board Member of many social, charitable, and cultural societies and foundations such as the Arab Thought Foundations, the Islamic Solidarity Fund, the Arab Academy for Finance & Banking, the International Academy for Information & Media Sciences, and the King Abdulaziz & His Companions Foundation for the Gifted
- Chairman of the General Council for Islamic Banks & Financial Institutions, and of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce & Industry
- President of the Islamic Chamber of Commerce, Industry & Agriculture
- the owner of Durrat Al-Arus, a resort in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
In November 2017, at which time he had a net worth of some $2.3 billion, Kamel was one of more than 200 businessmen and royals who were arrested and detained, on unspecified corruption charges, by the Saudi government in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh. One fellow arrestee was Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a Wahhabist who had previously: (a) lamented that “since the 9/11 events the image of Islam has been tarnished in the West”; (b) donated $20 million each to programs for the study of Islam and the Muslim world at Georgetown and Harvard Universities, in an effort to establish educational entities that would promote interfaith understanding and “teach about the Islamic world to the United States”; (c) donated $15 million to establish the Middle East’s first two centers for American Studies, at universities in Beirut and Cairo; and (d) made headlines in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, when then-New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani rejected Alwaleed’s $10 million disaster-relief gift to the Twin Towers Fund because of the Prince’s assertion that: (1) the attacks had occurred because “our Palestinian brethren continue to be slaughtered at the hands of Israelis while the world turns the other cheek”; and (2) future attacks could be avoided if only the U.S. would “reexamine its policies in the Middle East and adopt a more balanced stand toward the Palestinian cause.”
Saleh Abdullah Kamel died of a heart attack on May 18, 2020 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. At the time of his death, he had a net worth of approximately $2.6 billion.
Further Reading: 2002 Lawsuit by the Families of 9/11 Victims; “Saleh Kamel” (Forbes.com (3-20-2017); “Chairman and Founder of Islamic Multinational Banking Network … Passes Away” (AlBaraka.com, 5-19-2020); “Saleh Abdullah Kamel: Saudi Billionaire Dies at 79” (GulfNews.com, 5-19-2020); “Billionaire Saudi Banking Tycoon Dead at 79, Family Says” (ABC News, 5-19-2020).