Archive for the ‘News commentary’ Category

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CIA: funding rebels doesn’t work

October 31, 2014

An internal review conducted by the CIA found that U.S. financing, training, and arming foreign fighters has seldom worked in the past 70 years. According to The New York Times (hat tip to Drugs and Thugs Blog), the Obama administration asked the CIA to report on the subject when the White House was considering whether to increase aid to Syrian rebels in 2012 and 2013. The CIA found that there was only one significant example of support to rebels that was effective in the short-term, which was aid to the Afghan mujahideen in the 1980s—an initiative now viewed as a long-term strategic blunder that contributed to the eventual rise of Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Nevertheless, the Obama administration has shifted course and decided to arm and fund “vetted, moderate,” Syrian rebels anyway. Funding the rebels has likewise been championed by interventionists including John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Hillary Clinton.

Other studies have shown even worse consequences than the CIA’s report. Rather than just being ineffective, such efforts tend to make matters worse according to Dr. Marc Lynch:

In general, external support for rebels almost always make wars longer, bloodier and harder to resolve (for more on this, see the proceedings of this Project on Middle East Political Science symposium in the free PDF download). Worse, as the University of Maryland’s David Cunningham has shown, Syria had most of the characteristics of the type of civil war in which external support for rebels is least effective…

Why are we choosing the least effective option?

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Arab Bank liable in Hamas money case

October 6, 2014

Litigation can help bankrupt terrorist groups by discouraging banks from providing them with account services. While banks like HSBC have gotten a lot of attention for weak compliance programs, there are some banks—particularly Gulf-based and sharia banks—that have purposefully funded terrorist groups out of shared sympathies or backscratching arrangements with the ruling monarchies. Jordan’s Arab Bank is one of them. Note that in this case, as in almost every other high-fatality terrorist operation in the past 20 years, a Saudi front charity is involved.

From ACAMS MoneyLaundering.com:

By Colby Adams and Kira Zalan

In the first trial of its kind, a federal court said Monday that Arab Bank is liable for deaths caused by Hamas and a Saudi charity that used its accounts to reward terrorism.

A jury in the Eastern District of New York ruled in the decade-old case that the Amman-based financial institution should pay the families of individuals killed by Hamas in reparation for providing banking services to the group’s leaders and facilitating payments to relatives of suicide bombers.

Using Arab Bank accounts, the Saudi Committee in Support of the Intifada Al Quds offered the payments as a reward to the families of any Palestinian terrorist, regardless of group affiliation, according to the plaintiff’s attorneys, who said the program functioned with the financial institution’s consent…

Arab Bank will appeal.

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Sharia bank caught circulating counterfeits

October 5, 2014

Islami Bank Bangladesh, Ltd. (IBBL) has distributed counterfeit currency to a garment manufacturer that made a withdrawal to pay its employees’ wages, according to local police.

IBBL, the biggest sharia-compliant bank in Bangladesh, has previously been implicated by the government for diverting profits to terrorist groups as a form of corporate zakat, and is currently under a national investigation for its expenditures. The counterfeit scheme raises the possibility of wider fraudulent activities by IBBL that even previously suspected.

From the Dhaka Tribune on Sep. 14 (h/t Munazir):

Fake notes distributed by Islami Bank

The incident is brewing anger and distrust among that bank’s subscribers

Garments company Lumbini Ltd withdrew Tk50 crores to pay its employee-salary from Bandarban Islami Bank on Thursday September 11 in which thousands of bank notes were found to be fakes.

The company paid employee salary to its 24 sections, out of which the Finishing Section received 500k sixty three thousand where the most number of notes were found to be fakes.

On Saturday, after joining work, the employees complained about the fake bank notes which prompted the company to recover 1,000 fake notes from its 26 employees. Later, those 26 employees were repaid with genuine notes.

The latest news is that police is seizing all the paid salary. They believe, more fakes may be recovered once the seizing process is completed. Police has tightened security around the garments.

The incident is brewing anger and distrust among that bank’s subscribers.

Islami Bank Bandarban branch Manager Nurul Hossain Kauser has denied any allegation of distributing fake bank notes. Among Bandarban Hill Tracts’ 7 upazillas,  there is only one of Islami Bank branch at Bandarban town’s Masjid building.

Many other Islami Bank subscribers are coming out saying they also received fake notes from the bank before…

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Jihadist’s family out of business after secret $9 million transfer to Lebanon

September 29, 2014

Australian financial authorities have foiled an ongoing attempt to keep millions of dollars in transactions off the books by a remittance company owned by a terrorist’s sister and her husband. The case illustrates the possibilities for financial system abuse by small, non-bank financial companies based in the West with significant business operations in high-risk countries like Lebanon. The case also provides justification for probing the money trails and the sympathies of the families of convicted terrorists.

Hat tip to El Grillo for sending in related news. From The Sydney Morning Herald on Sept. 17:

Sharrouf family firm shut over terror funding fears

A Lakemba money transfer business owned by the sister and brother-in-law of convicted Sydney terrorist Khaled Sharrouf has been suspended amid concerns it was sending millions of dollars to the Middle East to finance terrorism.

Damour Sharrouf and her husband Ahmed Alwash have had their Lakemba firm Bisotel Rieh Pty Ltd suspended after the financial intelligence agency AUSTRAC became concerned about millions of dollars sent to Turkey and Lebanon that the firm has failed to account for. It is the first such suspension over suspected terrorism financing.

Ms Sharrouf, 37, is the older sister of Khaled Sharrouf, the 31-year-old who is wanted for terrorism offences and who escaped to the Middle East on his brother’s passport.

Local business owners told Fairfax Media they had seen Khaled Sharrouf inside the Lakemba business, which also operates a travel firm, before he went overseas.

“Yes, I’ve met him before,” barber Mohamad Machlouche, who owns the business next door to the money transfer firm, said. “He seemed different before [he went overseas]. He seemed normal, looking for work, was a normal person.

“No one on earth was expecting anything like this.”

According to the money transfer firm’s website, it has an office in the northern Lebanon city of Tripoli, seen as an epicentre for Sunni extremism in the country and a gateway to funding militant groups in neighbouring Syria – raising the possibility that money could even have gone to the brutal Islamic State group.

AUSTRAC’s acting head John Schmidt told Fairfax Media the agency’s concerns were based on the fact that Bisotel Rieh was failing to report all of the money it sent overseas and often refused to reveal who was ultimately receiving the funds. Also, it was sending money to “high terrorism financing risk jurisdictions”.

“We’ve had some concerns about the quality of their reporting. For example, for the period from January to August this year, they reported international funds transfers of $12.3 million. We believe from other sources that it was in fact closer to $21.3 million,” Mr Schmidt said.

“So in that eight-month period, there’s already a $9 million discrepancy. That causes concerns.”…

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ISIS taxing each long-haul trucker $800

September 28, 2014

Taxes make up increasing share of ISIS’s wealth

Trucks passing through Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) checkpoints on highways out of Iraq are being charged a tax of up to $800 per truck. Truckers are issued two tax stamps or receipts for their payments—one is shown at the next checkpoint as proof of payment, and the other is kept for the driver’s records. The taxes are in keeping with traditional Islamic tolls against merchants passing through the jurisdiction of an ‘ashir–a tax agent of an imam.

But ISIS hasn’t stopped there—they’re also collecting a tax on each bank withdrawal they authorize through ISIS-controlled banking committees in Mosul. If you’re an ordinary Mosul bank customer, you have to get permission from ISIS to withdraw your own money, and of course ISIS takes a cut along the way. ISIS probably justify their fees on the basis of reversing any “haram” interest that has accrued to depositors’ savings.

Thanks to Twitter user El Grillo for sending in both of the news items above.

The taxes suggest a deepening of ISIS’s territorial control, authority, expertise, and capacity to increase revenues domestically.  Forbes also reports that ISIS is taxing telecommunications networks and basic utilities.  Non-Muslims face the discriminatory jizya tax as well.

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Finland busts 4 Somalis for wires to al-Shabaab

September 23, 2014

As Money Jihad and Tundra Tabloids pointed out earlier this year, Finland criminalized the financing of terrorism 12 years ago, but nobody had been convicted yet. That’s about to change. Four Somali men living in Finland have been interrogated and indicted for transferring hundreds of euros to the terrorist group al-Shabaab. Prosecutors suggest the money could be intended to buy weapons, and some of it may have been used for an abortive plot to abduct, drug, smuggle, and conscript teenagers to fight for al-Shabaab.

The transfer of money in fairly small-dollar increments to avoid detection from some radical Somalis living in the West to Somalia, while claiming humanitarian motives, is consistent with al-Shabaab tactics, techniques, and procedures for obtaining overseas financing.

From the Helsinki Times (hat tip Aisha) on Sept. 17:

Four charged with financing terrorism

The first ever investigation into suspected terrorist offences in Finland has spawned criminal charges, with the Office of the Prosecutor General announcing on Wednesday that it has brought charges of financing terrorism against four people.

The suspects are believed to have raised and provided thousands of euros to al-Shabab, a jihadist militant group based in Somalia, fully aware of the destination and intended use of the money.

Although the wire transfers were no larger than 100–200 euros, they would have sufficed for the acquisition of various firearms, reminds state prosecutor Juha-Mikko Hämäläinen. “At the time, an assault rifle could be bought for 140 American dollars in Somalia. A hand grenade cost 25 dollars and a bazooka 150 dollars,” he highlights.

In addition, one of the suspects is accused of recruiting their brother to al-Shabab and planning to abduct his 15–17-year-old children in Finland and to take them to a terrorist training camp in Somalia against their will. The children were to be lured to Kenya under the guise of a holiday, drugged and transported across the border to a training camp in Somalia, where they would have been subjected to forced labour or similar conditions.

The plan was scrapped due to lack of money, according to the prosecution.

As a result, the suspect will also face charges of recruitment for commissioning a terrorist offence and preparation of an offence to be committed with terrorist intent. The offences are believed to have taken place between January 2008 and March 2011.

The suspects have rejected all criminal accusations in interrogations, insisting that the funds were transferred for humanitarian purposes.

Altogether, six people were suspected in the pre-trial investigation, but the Office of the Prosecutor General decided against bringing charges against two of them, a 28-year-old and 31-year-old man…

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Denmark: Dahabshiil at risk for money laundering

September 16, 2014

Offices of the money transfer company Dahabshiil, which operates primarily in Somalia, have been found “completely inadequate” in their compliance with anti-money laundering and terrorist financing laws in Denmark, and the company has been referred to the police for further investigation.

The Danish Financial Supervisory Authority (FSA) began an investigation of Dahabshiil’s offices in Copenhagen, Kolding, Aalborg, and Aarhus in July 2013, and concluded by July 2014 that Dahabshiil “has violated the essential elements of the Money Laundering Act.” FSA found that Dahabshiil’s employees in Denmark received zero training on compliance with the Danish Money Laundering Act, and employees have reported zero cases of suspicious customer transactions over the past five years. The FSA also determined that the destinations of Dahabshiil’s money, Kenya and Somalia, are “countries that have totally inadequate rules to combat money laundering and terrorist financing.”

In response to the FSA’s findings, Dahabshiil denied that its company would be “abused by criminals.”

Financial crime consultant Kenneth Rijock offers the following analysis of FSA’s findings:

Apparently, the local [Danish Dahabshiil] offices had no compliance regime whatsoever, and relied upon the parent entity…

If an EU member nation has taken the trouble to conclude that Dahabshiil represents an unacceptable level of risk, a major UK bank [Barclays] sought to exit the relationship, and ties with Al-Shabaab, which the United States attacked today, and reportedly killed it leader, as representing a clear and present danger to American interests, why can’t OFAC finally smell the coffee, and designate it? Has pressure been exerted by Midwest politicians, who have large Somali expats in their district, and how much more evidence is necessary for sanctions to be imposed?

When I write about high-risk individuals, who are guilty of committing financial crimes, so that compliance officers will know to decline to onboard them as bank clients, I have found that OFAC often doesn’t sanction them for a number of years after the bad news is in the public domain. Why wait so long? There has to be a faster way to identify financial criminals, and terrorist financiers.

Indeed. The FSA’s findings were scarcely reported in Denmark this summer, much less in the United States. Compliance departments have a right to know what allegations and criminal referrals have been made against Dahabshiil.  U.S. financial regulators have some catching up  to do.

In addition to these compliance deficiencies, Money Jihad has previously reported that Dahabshiil makes recurring payments to the al-Shabaab terrorist organization in exchange for the “privilege” of operating in Somalia. Member of Parliament Saado Ali Warsame was slain this summer three years after recording a song describing Dahabshiil’s financing of terrorism and announcing her belief that Dahabshiil had put a bounty on her head.

Meanwhile, several U.S. agencies and politicians are pursuing new ways to ease remittances to Somalia through companies like Dahabshiil.

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