On Trial

The Student Accused of Smuggling Jihadi Money in Her Underwear

London-born Nawal Msaad is on trial at the Old Bailey after being arrested at Heathrow with rolled-up 500-euro notes worth $27,000 in her panties—allegedly for jihadi fighters in Syria.


She is well-dressed, confident and beautiful, but the authorities claim this 27-year-old British student is also part of a terrorist plot to fund jihadi fighters in Syria.

Nawal Msaad, who was born in London, was arrested in January at Heathrow Airport before she could board a flight to Turkey when officials discovered tightly rolled 500-euro bills worth $27,000 in her underwear.

A trial in London heard on Tuesday that she had agreed to become a “trusted courier” transporting cash raised in Britain to the Syrian front lines, where it would help finance terror groups fighting against President Bashar al-Assad.

Msaad arrived at the Old Bailey in Central London on Tuesday in a fitted white shirt and a high-waisted skirt accessorized with Ray-Bans and a plain gray ankle monitor.

Msaad is on trial alongside her close friend Amal El-Wahabi, also 27. Both are accused of plotting to smuggle money that would “be used for the purposes of terrorism.” The jury heard that Msaad had been studying human resources at London Metropolitan University when her friend offered to pay her $1,300 to act as a courier.

According to the prosecution, WhatsApp messages and texts between El-Wahabi and her husband, Aine Davis, showed that he was fighting alongside “extremist jihadist terrorist groups,” probably in Syria. Photographs, including a selfie, allegedly showed him with the black flag adopted by some of the most radical groups, including ISIS.

Mark Dennis QC, prosecuting, said Davis was behind the scheme. “The smuggling attempt, however, had been instigated by the first defendant’s husband—Aine Davis, 30—who, it is alleged, had left London a few months earlier to pursue the jihadist cause in which he now believed,” he said. “It is plain from images that he had sent to her that Davis had fulfilled his desire and was now with jihadist fighters.”

The prosecution claimed that Davis had warned his wife to use a burner phone or public phone boxes to ensure that she did not become “bait.” The court heard that El-Wahabi had convinced her friend Msaad to act as a mule to take the money that had been fundraised in Britain to Turkey, from where it could be put to use in the Syrian civil war.

“It is alleged in this case that the money that the second defendant was attempting to take out to Turkey was money that had been raised in this country and had been destined to support the jihadist cause which Davis was now pursuing with like-minded supporters,” Dennis said.

“The allegation in this case is that each defendant, when becoming concerned in the arrangement of the smuggling of this money to Turkey at the behest of Davis, knew of, or at the very least had reasonable cause to suspect, that the money was or might be used for the purposes of terrorism.”

On January 16, Msaad set off on what was supposed to be a three-day trip to Turkey. She was apprehended at Heathrow as she approached the departure gate before boarding a flight to Istanbul.

When questioned by police about the reason for her trip, the prosecution said, she told officers that she was planning a “short break” and wanted to buy gold for her mother. She subsequently confessed that she was carrying a large sum of money. “She was then taken to a private room where she pulled out a roll of banknotes from inside her underwear and handed it across to the officers. The banknotes were tightly rolled and were wrapped,” Dennis said. “It would appear that it would have been further hidden inside her body, wrapped in a condom.”

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Both women deny the charges. The trial continues.