It was founded by Adel bin Abdul-Jalil Batterjee ( عادل بن عبد الجليل بترجي ) of Jeddah, who is now personally embargoed by the UN and by the US. BIF's chief executive officer Enaam Arnaout began serving a ten-year sentence for racketeering in 2003.
BIF's offices had been in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina (Sarajevo and Zenica), Canada, China, Croatia, Georgia (Duisi and Tbilisi), the Netherlands, Pakistan (Islamabad, Peshawar), the Palestinian Territories, Russia (Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia, Moscow), Saudi Arabia (Riyadh and Jeddah), Sudan, Tajikistan, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Yemen. It was known as the Benevolence International Fund in Canada and Bosanska Idealna Futura in Bosnia.
The group stated that it was "helping those afflicted by wars. BIF first provides short-term relief such as emergency food distribution, and then moves on to long term projects providing education and self-sufficiency to the children, widowed, refugees, injured and staff of vital governmental institutions."
The list of 20 main financiers of al-Qaeda, composed by Osama bin Laden in 1988 and dubbed by him the Golden Chain, was found in the Bosnia office of Benevolence International Foundation when it was raided in March 2002.
Meanwhile, another group known as the Islamic Benevolence Committee was founded in both Jeddah and Peshawar, Pakistan by Batterjee. The group was a "charity" that openly supported fighters against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
In 1992, the Benevolence International Corporation in the Philippines folded visible operations, while the Islamic Benevolence Committee was renamed to Benevolence International Foundation. The Filipino group would become a group set up to attack U.S. interests in the Philippines. Khalid Sheik Mohammed is said to have led the rest of the group.
The group was moved to the United States, with Enaam Arnaout as the director. The organization first set shop in Plantation, Florida. Arnaout married an American woman and obtained citizenship to the United States. In 1993, the organization's headquarters moved to Chicago, Illinois.
In late 1994, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa travelled to the United States to meet with Mohamed Loay Bayazid, who was the president of Benevolence International at the time.
The U.S. Government alleged that the group sent money and communications to Osama bin Laden, purchased rockets, mortars, rifles, bayonets, dynamite, and other bombs for Al-Qaida members in Chechnya, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, and redirecting funds meant for charity purposes to purposes related to terrorism. The U.S. government also alleged that the group was aiding the travel of terrorists, including Khalifa, Bayazid, and al-Qaeda co-founder Mamdouh Salim, and was coordinating the escape of BIF members from Bosnian police.
During a sentencing hearing in August 2003, U.S. District Judge Suzanne Conlon told prosecutors they had “failed to connect the dots” and said there was no evidence that Arnaout “identified with or supported” terrorism.
These allegations were withdrawn as part of a February 2003 plea bargain in which Enaam Arnaout pleaded guilty to racketeering charges. The plea bargain allowed for him to provide information to prosecutors as long as charges that are related to Al-Qaida are dropped. He publicly denies any link to the group.