Sunrise Equities donated office space to Obama in 2004 when
he was running for U.S. Senate. Salman Ibrahim was there.

EXCLUSIVE: PART ONE - Background of the 2008 Sunrise Equities Scandal

CHICAGO - Barack Obama has strong ties
to a Chicago investment company that ripped off investors for a total of approximately $80 million. Sunrise Equities shut down in August when its CEO, Salman Ibrahim, and other top officers vanished. The money seems to have gone with them. Now, the Illinois Secretary of State and the FBI are investigating the scandal.

About 150 investors, mostly Muslim, learned in August that they had lost all of their savings to the Sunrise Equities fraud. Sunrise Equities, a shariah-compliant investment firm, targeted investors who were mostly Pakistani Muslim immigrants. Many the victims took out home-equity loans to make ends meet.

The Muslim Media Network (MMN) reported this on Sept. 11:

"According to latest reports coming from Chicago the management of Sunrise Equities and the affiliated Sunrise Constructions have disappeared after closing their offices. Sunrise CEO Salman Ibrahim, Vice President Amjed Mahmood, and Vice President (Community Relations) Mohammad Akbar Zahid are untraceable."

As financial scandals go, this one pales next to the implosions of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. However, to the hundreds of investors in Chicago who have been ruined by Sunrise Equities, the Fannie-Freddie mess might as well be in another galaxy. Salman Ibrahim and Sunrise Equities have ruined people here just as profoundly as any bank closing in the country has hurt others. Salman Ibrahim gained the trust of investors with the help of religious Muslim leaders, who approved of and even recommended investing with Sunrise Equities because it followed shariah rules, or Islamic law.

The Illinois Secretary of State and the FBI are investigating the scandal. Will Homeland Security be investigating this? After all, Ibrahim is a foreign national. Furthermore, he is rumored by many along the “Devon Corridor” of West Ridge to be a Taliban sympathizer.

The tragedy of Sunrise Equities has ripples throughout Chicago: A March 10, 2006 press release from Sunrise Equities bragged about a transaction in the nearby Uptown neighborhood:

"Sunrise Equities is pleased to announce the purchase of 4 parcels near the corner of Leland and Marine Drive. A yet unnamed project is under development and will be the largest project under the Sun Rise umbrella. The mixed use development plan will call for up to 150 condos and townhomes as well as community retail."

More press releases are available on the Sunrise Equities web site, which also lists major projects in which they were involved.

The Chicago Tribune reported on September 24, 2008:

The Shariah Board of America's approval of investing in Sunrise Equities led dozens of other Chicago-area Muslims—mostly Indians and some Pakistanis—to invest and lose hundreds of thousands of dollars with the company, which says it developed multiunit residential buildings in Chicago, the investors said.

Investors said they don't know if the company suffered losses because of the declining real estate market or for other reasons. Salman Azam, an attorney hired by several investors, said Sunrise's Chief Executive Officer Salman Ibrahim has not been seen since August. Sunrise's offices off Devon Avenue are closed. At his home, mail spills out of his mailbox.

Neither Ibrahim nor his attorneys could be reached for comment Monday and Tuesday. Another principal in Sunrise, Amjed Mahmood, declined to comment, saying he had been a vice president in the company and the "corporation had gone down." He said he lost $500,000 and was now driving a taxi.

For years, Ibrahim and his associates have been heavily involved in Democrat Party political affairs. Ibrahim donated to Barack Obama and to Joe Biden, Local Democrats, such as 49th Ward Alderman Joe Moore and 50th Ward Alderman Bernie Stone, benefited as well.

There are questions, then, that must be asked. Where did the missing $80 million go? Did any of that money go to terrorist entities? Inasmuch as Ibrahim is suspected by some in his now-former neighborhood to be sympathetic to radical Islamic groups, the authorities must be wondering where the money went. Was it transferred to accounts overseas? Will Ibrahim, Mahmood and Zahid keep the money for personal benefit? Was any of it transferred to enemies of the United States, such as alQaeda?

According the most recent US Treasury Terrorist Assets Report (TAR), more than $20.7 million was blocked in 2007 that might otherwise have gone to international terrorist organizations and individuals. That's a big increase from the $16.4 million block in 2006. Al-Qaeda's share in 2007 is estimated to have been more than $11.3 million, which is 46 percent more than in 2006.

The amount of blocked funds pertaining to international terrorist organizations and individuals, totaled over $20.7 million in 2007, compared to $16.4 million in 2006. Of that, over $11.3 million constituted assets of al-Qaeda, an increase of almost 46 percent over the level blocked as of the end of 2006. The Bench is not saying that Sunrise Equities officers were terrorists or gave money to terrorists. That is an unknown, but that is the point. As noted, people much close to Ibrahim allege that his sympathies lie with the Taliban. The Taliban, as we all know, sympathizes with al-Qaeda.

The US Government needs to quickly and thoroughly investigate the Sunrise Equities scandal, with involves around $80 million. That's almost four times as much as was blocked by the US Treasury in all of 2007.

Barack Obama has long had strong ties to Muslims and to Pakistanis. He also has long and strong ties to Sunrise Equities and Salman Ibrahim.

Obama wanted a satellite fundraising office in the “Devon Corridor,” the largely Indian-Pakistani section of Chicago’s West Ridge neighborhood on the north side. Salman Ibrahim was happy to help. Free office space was given to Obama’s campaign within Sunrise’s general offices at 6355 N. Claremont. Obama has long wooed Muslim voters, and did not have a physical presence in this part of Chicago, so the Sunrise location made logistical sense for Obama. It also made sense for Ibrahim and Sunrise as an effort to curry favor with rising star Barack Obama.

In 2004, Sunrise Investments gave Barack Obama free office space during his run for US Senate. The Bench has photographs of the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Clearly seen in the photos is Barack Obama and Salman Ibrahim.

We're not finished yet. Part Two of this story will examine Obama's connections to Salman Ibrahim and Sunrise Equities. Due to time constraints, The Bench will not detail here Obama's mysterious three weeks in Pakistan or his numerous Muslim associations. These are points that have been well covered already by a myriad of blogs and publications. Rather, The Bench hopes that the information presented here will alert others with more time and resources to the Sunrise Equities story and the Obama Connection. Perhaps they can pick up the ball and run with it.

NEXT: Obama's Connections to Sunrise Equities, Part Two


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