A former pub landlord turned barber shop owner sent £25,000 to ISIS fighters in Syria for weapons after claiming thousands of pounds in taxpayer-funded Covid grants, a court heard today.
Tarek Namouz, 43, from West London, had received money from the government to assist his business, Boss Crew Barbers, during the Covid 19 pandemic, and lived in a third-floor flat above the shop.
The former pub landlord is accused of boasting that the terrorists he is accused of funding have ‘incinerators like Hitler’. In WhatsApp messages read to court he also allegedly said: ‘I want to burn Christianity, we have incinerators and holocausts like Hitler, a lesson from history’.
He is accused of sending money on at least seven separate dates between November 2020 and April 2021, which was intended to fund a militia in Syria.
John McGuinness KC, prosecuting, told the jury: ‘At the time you may remember the Covid pandemic was very much ongoing in 2020 and 2021 The defendant was periodically in receipt of Covid grant relief from his local authority, Hammersmith and Fulham.’
When police raided the barber’s shop in Blythe Road, Olympia they found cash and a hidden mobile phone containing messages to a contact in Syria, an ISIS bomb-making video and a video showing how to kill with a knife.
In the months leading up to his arrest, he transferred money using Trust Money Transfers on Edgware Road, sending it to Syria, where he had lived until he was aged 14.
Tarek Namouz is appearing at Kingston Crown Court today. He denies sending thousands of pounds in coronavirus bounceback loans to fund the terrorist group Isis
Mr McGuinness told the jury at Kingston Crown Court: ‘He would generally give cash to the bureau which would be converted into Syrian pounds and sent overseas as cash’ where it was received by a man called Yahya Ahmed Alia.
The former pub landlord boasted the terrorists he is accused of funding have ‘incinerators like Hitler’ in a WhatsApp exchange with Mr Alia, the court heard.
He allegedly said ‘I want to burn Christianity, we have incinerators and holocausts like Hitler, a lesson from history’ in an exchange on Arabic the app uncovered on his Samsung phone.
Mr Alia replied ‘Shia, Alawites and Druz’ to which Namouz allegedly said ‘100 per cent’.
The pair also talked up plans to kill non-believers, behead opponents, carry out public executions in the streets and display bodies following an anticipated victory in a battle for control of the country’s capital Damascus, the trial was told.
In one exchange Namouz is said to have written: ‘We will take control of all people by force and by the ruling of Sharia law.
‘Whoever is not happy can get lost/he can leave.
Later in the exchange he refers to ‘striking the necks’ and ‘slaughtering with the knife.’
He then says ‘I swear to Allah we will cause chaos’ and ‘kill the non-believers’.
In the exchanges Mr Alia said ‘Whoever is not happy, a bullet in their head, I don’t want a single person alive who would oppose Sharia’.
Mr Alia also told him ‘we’re in an excellent situation now’ after purchasing Kalashnikovs and a gun to which Namouz is said to have replied ‘great, blessing.’
Officers identified seven transfers between November 2020 and April 2021, for a total of about £11,280.
Namouz, 43, from West London, had received money from the government to assist his business, Boss Crew Barbers, during the Covid 19 pandemic, and lived in a third-floor flat above the shop.
‘The prosecution say the seven sums set out were not the only money sent out, there was other money sent for which the prosecution does not have any records,’ Mr McGuinness said.
During a bugged conversation in August 2021, with a friend who was visiting him in prison after his arrest, Namouz allegedly said that police knew about some of the transfers but did not know he had transferred more and referred to sending £25,000 to the same man in Syria.
When Namouz’s barber shop was raided by police, on May 25 last year, a Samsung Galaxy 10 mobile phone found underneath a bottom drawer.
‘At about 7am while some of the officers were still in the defendant’s flat they heard the sound of an alarm or a mobile phone ringing accompanied by a vibrating noise, the sound as though it was set to wake you up in the morning,’ Mr McGuinness told the jury.
‘There was a four-drawer set of drawers in the bedroom of the flat. When they lifted out the bottom drawer, in the recess underneath the drawer, they found a Samsung Galaxy 10 phone and next to it a set of keys.’
In the top drawer, the officers found a quantity of cash which came to £3,170.
On the phone, officers found messages using the encrypted Whatsapp forum that showed that Namouz was ‘of the same mindset’ as Alia, Mr McGuinness said.
The men were ‘both committed to the Islamic extremist culture of Islamic State and the reason he sent money to Ahmed was for terrorism, to further terrorism in Syria.’
The messages included references to plots of land and using the money to buy a building or construct a building that would be used to sell food as well as for ‘terrorist purposes,’ Mr McGuinness said.
There was ‘talk of people occupying the building that the prosecution say were Islamic State fighters, and of storing weapons,’ he added.
The phone also had the encrypted Telegram app which had been used to receive ISIS propaganda and instructional material including a video showing how to make explosive substances, and another showing an ISIS fighter demonstrating assassination techniques using a knife.
Namouz does not dispute he made the transfers but initially claimed he had sent money out to help those who were ‘poor and needy’ in Syria, the jury was told.
Interviewed by police for a second time, some months later, he told the police he had wanted to retire to Syria and had sent money over which had been used to buy part of a plot of land and he was going put up an apartment block on it, as well as having a farm on another plot of land.
‘The prosecution says that what the defendant told the police about the reason for sending out the money was untrue,’ Mr McGuinness said.
The trial continues.