Terrorists may have made huge profits dealing in gold and oil

War on Terrorism: Markets
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A senior German finance official has spoken of "ever clearer signals" that those who planned the terrorist attacks on US targets may have made huge financial profits from the havoc they brought to financial markets.

Dealings in airline and insurance stocks and gold and oil are now under investigation as more evidence emerges of unusual market movements around the time of the attacks.

Since the assault on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, speculation has been rife about the possibility of a macabre form of insider dealing by those who knew a terrorist attack was imminent.

Ernst Welteke, president of the Bundesbank, gave the theory authoritative backing this weekend when he told journalists that "there are ever clearer signs that there were activities on international financial markets which must have been carried out with the necessary expert knowledge".

Mr Welteke, who attended a meeting of EU finance ministers in Liege, added that: "With the oil price we have seen before the attacks a fundamentally inexplicable rise in the price, which could mean that people have bought oil contracts which were then sold at a higher price."

Oil prices, as measured by Brent crude oil futures contracts, gained almost 6 per cent in the two weeks before the attacks. They rose as much as 13 per cent, to $31.05, on 11 Sep- tember, the day of the atrocities.

Swiss authorities have opened an investigation into a financial firm allegedly linked to Osama bin Laden. The Federal Finance Ministry confirmed yesterday it was investigating the finance company Nada Management Organization.

Around the world specialist investigators are studying the behaviour of the markets, hoping to trace a link back to anyone who may have known the terrorist attack was imminent.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating larger than normal trading of options in two corporations because they surged as much as 285 times the previous average volume during the days before the attack. Trading in Munich Re, the world's biggest reinsurer, was about double the daily average volume over the past six months on 6 and 7 September.

The Bank of France's governor, Jean-Claude Trichet, said investigations in France by the stock-market regulator have not yet produced conclusions.

Belgium is making similar inquiries. "There are investigations," the Belgian central bank governor, Guy Quaden, said. "Whether there are suspicions – I don't know."

Austria's Finance Minister, Karl-Heinz Grasser, said: "Even in the financial sector there could be a global network [of those linked to terrorism] and we are looking into this in Austria as well."

Didier Reynders, the Belgian Finance Minister and the current chairman of EU finance ministers' meetings, said his colleagues would receive a report after national supervisors and regulators had completed their investigations. "There are very strong suspicions in Great Britain for the moment," he said.