US agents raid software firm
The Borneo Post - Sunday, 8 December, 2002
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BOSTON, Massachusetts: US federal agents yesterday raided a software company which counted the FBI and other government agencies on its client list, but played down reports of a terrorist link to the firm.

Agents from US Customs, the FBI, the Secret Service and local state police carried out the pre-dawn raid on the offices of PTech Inc. in Quincy, Massachusetts.

"The search was conducted in connection with an ongoing financial crime investigation," Massachusetts US Attorney Michael Sullivan said in a statement.

"Media characterisations of this as a terrorist investigation are premature," Sullivan said.  PTech provides software to a host of government agencies, including the FBI, the Federal Aviation Administration, the air force, navy and the Department of Energy.

Television reports quoting anonymous law enforcement sources had said the raid was sparked by information that PTech was financed by a Saudi millionaire, Hassan Al-Qadi, who is on the US terrorist watch list.

US companies are prohibited from knowingly doing business with anyone on the list.

The law enforcement sources said an investigation was also underway into whether PTech officials were involved in a charitable organisation that sends money to the Middle East and whether some of those funds may have been diverted to the al­Qaeda network.

Al-Qadi once headed the Muslim charitable organization called the Muwafaq Foundation.  He has repeatedly denied any connection with al-Qaeda or its leader, Osama bin Laden.

The main concern, the sources said, was that the software provided to government departments by PTech might in some way be compromised or contaminated.

However, the White House said government agencies that used software from PTech had found no cause for concern in the computer applications.

"The products that were supplied by this company to the government all fell in the non-classified area, none of it involved any classified products used by the government," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.

"The material has been reviewed by the appropriate government agencies," he said.  They have detected absolutely nothing in their reports to the White House that would lead to any concern about any of the products purchased from this company," Johnson told reporters.

One of PTech's vice presidents, Joe Johnson, said the raid was not wholly unexpected given the sensitivity of the company's client list.

"It's no great surprise. We live in different times right now," he told reporters.  "We do have people here who are Muslim.  "They are American citizens. We fully expected this.  "I don't think it's any different than when you go to the airport today, and you have to go through additional security," said the spokesman.

"We just have to try and get through it."  PTech was launched in 1994 by chairman and CEO Oussama Ziade, chief product officer James Cerrato and vice president and chief scientist Hussein Ibrahim.-AFP