London barber who received Covid grants sent £25k to IS fighter, court told

A barber who received taxpayer-funded Covid grants allegedly sent £25,000 to an Islamic State fighter in Syria, a court heard.

Tarek Namouz, 43, is accused of making at least seven transfers to Yahya Ahmed Alia between November 2020 and May 2021 so Alia could buy weapons and explosives to commit terror attacks in Syria.

The pair conspired over WhatsApp about buying sniper rifles and Kalashnikovs, slaughtering “non-believers” and staging public executions, Kingston crown court heard.

Namouz, who ran Boss Crew Barbers in Hammersmith, west London, received grants under a scheme launched during the UK’s first coronavirus lockdown.

The prosecutor, John McGuinness KC, told the jury: “You might remember the Covid pandemic was very much ongoing in 2020 and 2021. You will see the defendant was periodically in receipt of Covid grant relief from his local authority, Hammersmith and Fulham council.

“A theme that runs through the WhatsApp exchanges that the defendant had with Yahya Ahmed Alia is that both of them were committed to the Islamic extremist culture, both of them were committed to, or certainly fervently supported, the culture of Islamic State, and that the reason the defendant was sending or had sent money from the UK to Syria, to Yahya Ahmed Alia, was for the purposes of terrorism.”

Namouz denies eight counts of funding terrorism between 30 November 2020 and 25 May 2021. He also denies two counts of possessing terrorist information, in the form of two videos found on a phone. The videos, downloaded from the encrypted messaging app Telegram, detailed bomb-making instructions and assassination techniques using a knife, the court heard.

Police raided Boss Crew Barbers on 25 May 2021 and arrested Namouz. They found a Samsung Galaxy 10 phone hidden underneath a chest of drawers in the defendant’s bedroom, and £3,170 in cash. In a police interview, Namouz claimed the cash was from government Covid grants and his work as a barber.

Namouz’s phone contained IS propaganda material and his WhatsApp conversations with Alia conducted between 15 May and the day of the raid. The prosecution alleges that Namouz had deleted earlier messages.

McGuinness said: “The tenor of those messages is such that it’s apparent that the two people communicating are of the same mindset, that they are committed to fighting, to the Islamic State, [and] committed to the cause of terrorism.”

Namouz’s messages to Alia were read to the jury. They included a text on 17 May 2021 that said: “I want to burn Christianity. We have incinerators like Hitler. A lesson from history.”

On 21 May 2021, referencing an attack in the Syrian capital, Damascus, Namouz said: “We will take control of all people by force and by the ruling of the Shariah Law [sic].” He said any opponents would suffer “slaughtering with the knife”. “I swear to Allah, we will cause chaos,” he wrote, adding: “Kill the non-believers.”

It is alleged that Namouz transferred £11,284.69 over seven transactions to Alia in Damascus between November 2020 and April 2021. The prosecution claims that Namouz sent more money, because he told a friend who visited him in prison after his arrest that he had transferred £25,000 in total. The prosecution has not found records of the additional funds.

Namouz’s conversation with the friend who visited him in prison in August 2021 was recorded, the prosecutor said. Namouz told the visitor: “I have made a transfer of 25k, but in here [the police] they knew that the amount is only 10k.”

He said his “friend” had bought snipers and bombs with the money, adding: “We were preparing for an attack and I was going to join him.”

Namouz is alleged to have used a money transfer bureau in Shepherd’s Bush where he handed over sterling that would be converted into Syrian pounds and sent to Alia.

In police interviews, Namouz admitted sending money to Syria but denied it was for funding terrorism. He told detectives he wanted to help the poor and needy, and he later claimed he wanted to retire in Syria, the country of his birth. He said he had used the money to buy a plot of land.

The trial continues and is expected to last two weeks.