International Probe on Suspected Bin Laden Financial Trades

Financial market officials around the world are investigating the possibility that groups tied to Usama bin Laden may have cashed in on the terrorist strikes by dumping millions in stocks and options for industries they knew would be most severely affected in the attacks.

The Chicago Board Options Exchange said Tuesday it was investigating reports of unusual trading activity before last week's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. The exchange declined to elaborate.

The CBT's statement comes amid widespread international efforts to track down bin Laden's financial activities before and after Tuesday's terrorist attacks on the United States.

In Japan, the president of the Tokyo Stock Exchange said in a statement Tuesday the exchange's probe is focusing on whether groups linked to bin Laden traded on Tokyo's main market around the time of the attacks. 

Short-Selling

German and American investigators have said they are looking into claims of suspicious selling ahead of the suicide strikes in New York and Washington. They have reportedly been checking stock swings last week, particularly those of three major European reinsurance companies — Germany's Munich Re, Switzerland's Swiss Re and AXA of France.

Investigators were reportedly training their attention on the possibility that bin Laden's contacts predicted their attacks would send markets reeling worldwide and profited by short-selling stocks. 

Short-selling involves offering shares of a company the seller does not yet own, anticipating that he will be able to buy the shares at a cheaper price than he has promised to sell.

Rumors have been swirling in recent days that bin Laden and his associates sold stocks of American Airlines, United Airlines, or any other U.S. stock that would have been adversely affected by the attacks.

A Vast Fortune

Bin Laden, black sheep of a large and wealthy Saudi family, is suspected of managing his vast fortune through a network of lawyers and associates. He uses his $300 million in financial assets to fund his al-Qaida network of as many as 3,000 Islamic militants, according to a report published last week by the Congressional Research Service.

His investments reportedly include ostrich raising in Kenya, forestry interests in Turkey, diamond trading in Africa, bridge construction in Sudan and agricultural holdings in Tajikistan. Bin Laden's companies are also involved in property management, maritime transport, aircraft rental, contracting and other commercial activities in a number of countries.

European interests are managed by lawyers in Switzerland, which makes his financial dealings and support to terrorism difficult, but not impossible, to follow.

Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.