Wealthy businessman Yeslam Binladin, one of Osama bin Ladenís half-brothers,
hopes that a new perfume may help sweeten the atmosphere that has surrounded him
since September 11, 2001.
"It must be a smell that comes from way back, thereís something
about it," Binladin told AFP, enthusing about the "Yeslam" perfume he presented at
a trade fair on the French Riviera last month.
As he sipped tea in the cafe of a luxury Geneva department store,
the Saudi-Swiss investor praised the Italian-born specialist in Grasse, the French
perfume capital, who helped him choose the 80 euro-a-flask (103 dollars)
"Itís the womenís one that struck me," added Binladen, one of
Osamaís 53 brothers and sisters.
A range of products using his family name had been planned before
the deadly attacks on the United States and the brand-with the spelling he has
always used-was registered as a trademark, Binladin said.
Commercial use of the family name had been dropped "for the
moment" out of "sensitivity".
"I could not use Binladin any more and Yeslam is a rare name, it
means "bliss" although there is no single translation," the Geneva-based father of
Jet-setting Yeslam is pinning his future on the "floral
sensuality" of lily of the valley, narcissus, jasmine, sandalwood, ylang-ylang and
musk, while his half brother Osama is thought to rove between hideouts in the
wilderness between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Although he refrained from criticism, Binladin reiterated that he
has had no contact with Osama since 1981.
"It was a distant relationship. I left Saudi Arabia when I was six
or seven, I spent my life in boarding schools. I never grew up with the person."
Yet Yeslam Binladin became the most prominent relative of the
worldís most wanted man in recent years.
Investigators in Switzerland and France have probed a potential
financial trail from his Geneva-based Saudi Investment Company (SICO) to the
In February, Swiss authorities handed back documents seized at
Binladinís home and offices over three years ago, saying that "detailed"
investigations into the businessman had revealed no illegal activities.
"I had two searches, eight checks of all kinds, so it has been
troublesome. After nine-eleven, everyone was pointing fingers," he added.
"We felt that people didnít want to deal with us, we felt it
strongly," he said, explaining that his investment business had suffered in the
wake of the deadly attacks his half-brother had guided.
The softly spoken 54 year-old shrugged off suggestions of
resentment, saying he "understood" the reaction.
"It was a catastrophe. It was a catastrophe for us too."
"I think itís only natural when people point a finger at you, that
people become cautious," he said, pausing repeatedly to respond to greetings from
"The only thing thatís not natural is that some papers jump to
conclusions," he complained.
At one point, 40 police crammed into his offices during an
unannounced search. But two years later Binladin was invited to speak about Islam
and the West to an audience of Swiss federal police officers.
The businessman, who became a Swiss citizen in May 2001, left
Saudi Arabia about 20 years ago, severing ties with the huge Bin Laden
construction group his father built up over decades.
"There was family bickering and I left-bickering in the company,"
Despite insisting that SICO, which invests his closest familyís
fortune, kept an "arms-length relationship" with the late patriarchís business,
Binladin is proud of his fatherís achievement.
"My father built the mosque in Mecca and the mosque in Medina. It
was the biggest construction company."
"The family name is very well known and respected," Binladin