A man has been found guilty of supplying £3,000 ($3,800) to a suspect in the Paris and Brussels terror attacks. Zakaria Boufassil, 26, has been found guilty following a trial at Kingston Crown Court of engaging in conduct in preparation for acts of terrorism after handing the money to "Man In The Hat" terrorist suspect Mohamed Abrini, who became the most wanted person in Europe following the attacks that left more than 160 people dead.
Boufassil, together with Mohammed Ali Ahmed, 27, met with Brussels bomb suspect Abrini in a park in Small Heath, Birmingham, to hand over the money in July 2015.
The pair were aware that the cash would be used to fund the attacks that occurred in Paris in November 2015 and at Zaventem airport and the Brussels metro in March 2016.
Police said the £3,000 cash – which mainly came from benefits – was withdrawn from a bank account belonging to 32-year-old Belgian national Anwar Haddouchi, who is believed to have left the UK to join up with the Islamic State (Isis) in Syria. Haddouchi previously lived in Small Heath and was known to Boufassil's family.
Before travelling to Birmingham via London, Abrini flew to Istanbul in Turkey and was then smuggled into neighbouring Syria to meet with Abdelhamid Abaaoud – the mastermind behind the Paris attacks. He was killed days later by armed officers in France.
Ahmed, from Coventry Road, Small Heath, and Boufassil, from Coventry Road, Small Heath, were arrested on 14 and 15 April. Ahmed pleaded guilty to engaging in conduct in preparation for acts of terrorism an earlier hearing. Both men will be sentenced at Kingston Crown Court on 12 December.
Abrini became known as the "man in the hat" after CCTV footage of taken before the Brussels attack was released during the manhunt for the suspects. He is currently in police custody accused of the planning and execution of the Paris and Brussels attacks.
Assistant Chief Constable Marcus Beale, Counter Terrorism Lead for West Midlands Police, said: "The conviction of these two men is significant for the UK as it identified a dangerous link to Abrini and Abaaoud. Their conviction sends a clear message to those who fund terrorism will be prosecuted and potentially face lengthy prison sentences.
"We know that Abrini visited several locations during his visit to the UK, but that his sole purpose of being here was to collect the money and our case - whilst not focused on attack planning - acts as reminder of why our work to prepare for and prevent such incidents in the UK is important.
"We will continue to work with our partners in MI5 and the wider counter terrorism network to prioritise our resources against the cases that pose the most risk to the public − this includes funding and facilitating terrorism which is a significant element of the counter terrorism effort.
"The threat to the UK from international terrorism remains at severe, meaning an attack is considered to be highly likely. Plots aimed at the UK continue to be foiled, with offenders being prosecuted; our communities, businesses, policing and MI5 work relentlessly to make the UK very hard to attack but we cannot be complacent and will always strive to improve.
"We will continue to work with our partners in MI5 and the wider counter terrorism network to prioritise our resources against the cases that pose the most risk to the public."