JEFFERSON CITY — A top economist at the Missouri Department of Natural Resources is also the executive director of an Islamic charity in Columbia that the U.S. Treasury Department alleges is part of an international network providing funds to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida.
The DNR hired Mubarak Hamed in June 2002 — more than two years after the U.S. State Department withheld government funds from the charity, citing national security issues.
The spokeswoman for DNR, Connie Patterson, said her department learned of Hamed’s link to the Islamic American Relief Agency late Wednesday evening. “We got a call from a reporter who indicated Hamed was executive director of the group,” Patterson said. “We’ve only heard it from the news media.”
Hamed’s Columbia home, just west of Scott Boulevard, was searched twice this week by federal investigators in conjunction with the investigation of the Islamic American Relief Agency of Columbia and its international affiliates. No one has been arrested or charged.
Several FBI agents visited Hamed at the DNR on Wednesday afternoon, Patterson said. Hamed was interviewed, she said, but his office was not searched. On Thursday, Hamed took a leave from his position as an economist in the Department’s Geological Survey Division, a job that pays $51,252 a year. In conversations with the FBI on Friday morning, Patterson said she was told that investigators had no concerns about Hamed’s role in state government.
Attempts to reach Hamed on Friday and Saturday were unsuccessful.
Patterson said she was unaware of how closely Hamed was screened before his hiring in June 2002.
“I’m trying to find out what exactly the process was, if we did do a background check or not on that individual,” Patterson said.
Because Hamed was a volunteer at the Islamic charity, Patterson was unsure if examining his relationship with the organization was part of the process. It is only standard procedure when the potential employee is paid by the outside organization.
Gov. Bob Holden’s office, which has direct control over the DNR, had little to say on the issue.
“Gov. Holden has been briefed on the situation,” said Mary Still, the governor’s spokeswoman. “Our instructions are to refer all questions to the FBI.”
During the past 11 years, Hamed received four advanced degrees from MU, school officials confirmed. He earned master’s degrees in economics, agricultural economics and community development as well as a doctoral degree in agricultural economics.
The FBI refused to discuss Hamed or any individual involved in the investigation.
“Federal laws regarding privacy prohibit me for talking about anyone who hasn’t been charged with a particular crime,” FBI spokesman Jeff Lanza said.
Patterson said Hamed’s status with the agency will not change when he returns from leave.
“There will be no change in his duties, no restrictions placed on him in any way,” she said.