A key financial backer of the proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero once contributed to a U.S.-designated terror group, MyFoxNY.com reports.
Egyptian-born businessman Hisham Elzanaty, who made what is described as a "significant investment" in the Ground Zero mosque project, contributed more than $6,000 in 1999 to the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, also known as HLF, tax records show.
The partnership's general manager, Sharif El-Gamal, confirmed Elzanaty's role in the mosque project.
The donations to HLF came two years before the federal government shut down the organization and designated it a terror group. At the time, it was the largest Islamic charity in the U.S. It raised millions of dollars from Americans in the 1990s, telling donors the money would fund schools, orphanages and social welfare programs.
Elzanaty's attorney told MyFoxNY.com that his client believed at the time that he was donating to an orphanage. Elzanaty did not respond to questions.
Federal investigators say the group was set up as a Texas-based charity, but in fact supported Hamas.
Many other donors to the foundation gave thinking their donations would fund humanitarian programs.
Other people and companies who donated money, equipment or services to the foundation the year Elzanaty gave included NBA star Hakeem Olajuwon, the Microsoft Corp., and a medical equipment company owned by General Electric, according to tax records.
When the foundation's leaders were indicted, Attorney General John Ashcroft said, the case was not "a reflection on the well-meaning people who may have donated funds to the foundation."
But Ray Locker, managing director of The Investigative Project on Terrorism, told MyFoxNY.com that even in 1999, news outlets reported on possible ties between HLF and terror organizations.
Five HLF leaders were convicted in 2008 of providing support to Hamas.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.