DUBAI: Exploring the American connection to alleged Mossad hit of Hamas figure
Investigators probing the Jan. 19 killing of Hamas figure Mahmoud Mabhouh have turned their attention in recent days to a series of American-issued credit cards used by some of the alleged perpetrators of the crime during their stay in Dubai.
Like the Israeli dual nationals who say their passports were stolen, Iowa-based MetaBank, which issued the cards, says it was unwittingly drawn into the alleged scheme.
The cards were "prepaid payroll cards" loaded up with cash and issued by one of its New York-based "program managers," a company called Payoneer, according to a statement by the the bank, which said it followed all rules in vetting the applicants.
Payoneer, an online payment company, is headed by an Israeli national named Yuval Tal, who described himself a former Israeli military commando during an appearance as a commentator on Fox News four years ago (above).
The involvement of U.S. companies could draw the FBI into a worldwide probe that has already involved investigators from the United Arab Emirates, Britain, Ireland, Australia, France, Germany and Austria.
According to Gulf News, one of the company's three investors, Moshe Mor, is also a former Israeli military intelligence officer
But it's also possible that Payoneer was a victim just as Metabank was. It's still not clear whether the suspects in the Mabhouh killing were employed by Payoneer or given funds through its payment system.
It's also not clear whether U.S. officials are investigating the matter. MetaBank said it has been informed by unspecified authorities that some of the suspects in the killing used stolen identities and fake passports to obtain "employment/compensation" from U.S. companies and acquire the bank cards issued by Meta as well as other banks.
According to MetaBank, the cards are generally used by companies to give them the ability to pay "expatriates, employees and contractors of their company who live in the U.S. and in foreign countries."
MetaBank insists that it's in the clear as far as the law was concerned.
"Standardized steps were taken in accordance with applicable regulations and industry standards to validate cardholder identities prior to card issuance," it said. "The individuals named were not on the [federal asset-control] list, and no other readily apparent method existed for Meta to determine that identity theft had been perpetrated on valid governments and their citizens."
-- Borzou Daragahi in Dubai
Video: Payoneer Chief Executive Yuval Tal in a 2006 Fox News interview. Credit: YouTube