London: The chief suspect behind terrorist attacks in Brussels and Paris this year received money from a contact in the UK before he flew to France and disappeared, a British court was told on Friday.
Mohamed Abrini, who became known as the "man in the hat" following the deadly attack on Brussels airport in March, was handed 3,000 pounds by two men in Birmingham before flying to Paris and disappearing, Kingston Crown Court was told on Friday.
He had been sent to collect the money by Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who is suspected of being one of the ringleaders of the attacks across the French capital just months later in which 130 people were killed.
"There is no doubt that the money was handed over with the intention of assisting acts of terrorism...Abrini came to collect the money in the UK. The destination would include Syria and specifically Daesh (Islamic State)," prosecutor Max Hill told the court.
Zakaria Bouffassil, 26, from Birmingham is currently on trial in Kingston for handing over the cash to Abrini which had been withdrawn from the bank account of Anouar Haddouchi, a Belgian national who had been claiming state-funded welfare benefits while living in the West Midlands with his wife.
He was accompanied by Mohamed Ali Ahmed at the meeting point where the cash was handed over to Abrini.
Ahmed has already admitted the charge. Hill explained that Haddouchi had left Britain for Syria in the summer of 2014. He told the jury: "His account at times contained some 7,000 pounds or more. The figure fluctuated over time because benefits payments were still going into the account, even though Haddouchi had left the country."
The court heard that hours after collecting the money, Abrini visited the Grosvenor Casino in Birmingham where he took a photograph of a gambling machine on his mobile phone.
In March this year Abrini was captured on CCTV alongside Ibrahim El Bakraoui and Najim Laachraoui, who detonated bombs hidden in suitcases killing 12 people at Brussels airport.
Another 20 people died in an attack on Maalbeek metro station less than two hours later.
Jurors were also told he is also wanted by the French authorities in connection with the attacks in Paris last November.
Boufassil denies one charge of engaging in conduct in preparation for acts of terrorism and the trial continues. Abrini remains in custody in Brussels....