Norwegian Non-Profit Settles FCA Suit Related to Terrorism Financing
Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), a non-profit, non-governmental organization that receives funding from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), has settled an FCA suit for over $2M. According to the allegations, NPA provided material support to Iran, Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and the Democratic Front of the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), contrary to USAID’s requirements. Iran appears on the State Department’s list of State Sponsors of Terrorism, and Hamas, PFLP, and DFLP appear on OFAC’s Specifically Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List. The State Sponsors of Terrorism List includes countries that have repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism, and the Specifically Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List includes individuals and entities that support terrorism or otherwise engage in conduct antithetical to U.S. interests.The settlement amount was based on an analysis of NPA’s ability to pay a monetary settlement. NPA has also revised its internal policies to sure they comply with terms of USAID grants, and applicable sanctions laws. NPA admitted to the illegal practices and accepted responsibility for its conduct.
NPA has received USAID grants since 2012, and as a condition of receiving the grants, NPA submitted annual certifications to USAID that included this language: “to the best of its current knowledge, it did not provide within the previous ten years, and will take all reasonable steps to ensure that it does not and will not knowingly provide, material support or resources to any individual or entity that commits, attempts to commit, advocates, facilitates, or participates in terrorist acts . . . .” In the annual certifications, NPA also attested that specific acts of due diligence were performed on all projects in which USAID money was involved.
Contrary to these certifications, NPA provided training and expert advice to Iran, Hamas, PFLP, and DFLP. In Iran, NPA advised on mine clearance activities that were essential to the development of an oil field. NPA’s involvement included surveying the mines, and training members of the Iranian army to conduct mine inspections. With respect to Hamas, PFLP, and DFLP, NPA ran a program for youth in the Gaza Strip to become better participants in the political process, including classes on political organization, debate, and oral advocacy. Many of the participants in the program turned out to be members of Hamas, PFLP, or DFLP. Hamas, PFLP, and DFLP used information that they obtained from these workshops to alter their behavior in order to become more attractive to youth and, thereby, benefit from increased youth support.
This case was brought forward by a whistleblower, TZAC, INC, which will receive a $320K award.
This is the second time in recent memory that the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York has brought a FCA suit concerning USAID grants and terrorism financing. In March 2017, American University of Beirut settled FCA allegations that it provided material support, notably media and communications training, to several entities on the Specifically Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List. The settlement amount was $700K. The fraud was also brought to light by a whistleblower, who remained anonymous.