One of the Brussels bombing suspects was given £3,000 of British welfare payments by a group of Islamist fanatics, it has emerged.
The so-called “Man in the Hat” (pictured) – whose real name is Mohamed Abrini – has been linked to the terror cell behind this year’s Brussels suicide bomb and last year’s Paris gun attacks that claimed a total of 162 lives.
Abrini, who is 31, was allegedly captured on CCTV after the Brussels Zaventem airport suicide bombing on March 22 and is awaiting trial in Belgium.
Now it’s come to light that months before the Brussels attack he received £3,000 of British welfare cash from Zakaria Boufassil, 26, a Belgian citizen living in Birmingham, England.
Boufassil was convicted in a London court yesterday of supplying the money to Abrini in July 2015.
Abrini was apparently sent from Syria to Britain by a member of his terror cell to collect the funds.
Abrini and Boufassil met in a Birmingham park where the handover is believed to have taken place.
The cash was obtained from housing and child welfare payments paid in error to another Belgian man – Anouar Haddouchi.
Haddouchi had already been fighting for Isis in Syria for a year and had successfully claimed welfare in Britain since 2009 – despite mainly living in Saudi Arabia.
In total, nearly £11,000 was paid into Haddouchi’s account after he and his wife left for the war zone.
Birmingham city council has apologised for the error, which meant that nearly £6,000 was paid even after it was informed the pair had vacated their housing.
Another man, Mohammed Ali Ahmed, aged 27, was known to British security services and was on police bail when he helped Boufassil hand over the cash to Abrini. He impersonated Haddouchi to gain access to his bank account.
Boufassil was found guilty yesterday at Kingston crown court, west London, of engaging in conduct in preparation of acts of terrorism.
Ahmed pleaded guilty last month to the same offence. They will be sentenced next week.
Terror expert Lord Carlile yesterday claimed that hundreds of thousands of pounds of British welfare payments have helped to bankroll Islamist terrorists, triggering calls for a government inquiry.