American investigators are reported to be trying to identify a “golden chain” of up to 20 al-Qaeda financiers following claims that some of them visited Osama bin Laden at his Abbottabad hideout. According to a report in The Sunday Times, a “million-dollar man'' has emerged as the “prime focus'' of American authorities looking for clues to the identity of bin Laden's shadowy network of financial backers from “millions of pages'' of computer files seized from the Abbottabad compound where he was captured and killed.

“There are no doubt dozens of radical funders now worrying that their names, bank accounts or addresses will comes up in bin Laden's spreadsheets, and for good reason,” Matthew Levitt, a former intelligence official at the U.S. Treasury, told the paper citing the example of Abd al-Hamid al-Mujil, dubbed the “million-dollar man” for his alleged fund-raising skills.

One U.S. intelligence officer was reported as saying the focus of investigation was finding information about al-Qaeda's funding.

“Frankly any potential plots are likely to now be abandoned and key figures will be on the run. But the money men are people with businesses who can't up and move like that and we hope to pin down organisations we suspected as fronts,” he said.

Despite worry in diplomatic circles that a lack of trust in U.S.-Pak relations could “undermine'' investigations, David Cohen, head of the U.S. treasury department's terrorism and financial intelligence branch, was said to be hopeful that al-Qaeda's financial backers would be tracked down.

According to a senior Taliban commander, bin Laden risked meeting “money men'' in his Abbottabad compound because the organisation was in financial trouble. He suggested they were from the Gulf region.

“He [bin Laden] said fundraising was crucial but he limited the number of contributors he saw because of the risk. He was afraid these face-to-face meetings would lead his enemies to his house,” he told Newsweek.

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