Posts Tagged ‘FATF’

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This Valentine’s Day, give her diamonds. (Money is easier to launder that way.)

February 14, 2014

International financial watchdog FATF has issued a report that raises concerns about the use of diamonds to launder money in five countries that voluntarily disclosed information for the report.

India cited cases of overvaluation of diamonds sold abroad as a means of transferring illicit money back to India.  Trade-based money laundering is one of, if not the largest mechanism worldwide for transferring value without being detected.

As John Cassara and Avi Jorisch have noted in their book, On the Trail of Terror Finance, “diamonds are the most condensed form of physical wealth in the world. As a result, they are widely used in global laundering and value transfer schemes.”

Cassara and Jorisch also noted that Dubai, which maintains significant business relationships with diamond dealers in Mumbai, India, “are adept at invoice manipulation,” which Dubai traders can use to transfer significant amounts of value without transferring physical money.

Thanks to Sal Imburgia for first notifying Money Jihad about the report.

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Pakistan scrambles to get off FATF’s gray list

September 16, 2013

The world’s leading financial standards body, FATF, alerted the international community earlier this summer that Pakistan and 11 other countries have failed to make sufficient progress in preventing money laundering and terrorist financing.

The newspaper Pakistan Today notes that if Pakistan fails in “coming up with proper and combating the financing of terrorism and anti-money laundering legislations the country may face severe financial sanctions that may affect its financial deals with the World bank, the Asian Development Bank and other top financial institutions” (h/t Zia Ur Rehman).  Pakistan should make reforms prior to FATF’s next meeting in October to avoid such sanctions.

Not so coincidentally, Pakistan’s central bank has rolled out a new requirement for Pakistani financial institutions to adopt nationwide software by Sept. 30 that will facilitate the filing of suspicious activity reports by bank employees.  When a certain customer or transaction is regarded as suspicious, the financial institutions would use this software to report their observations back to the central bank.

Anybody familiar with new software deployments, even under the best circumstances in well-developed high-tech nations, will recognize that this is an overly ambitious timetable to for implementation.  Widespread training and adoption of the software is unlikely to be complete by FATF’s deadline, but the stated goal may be enough to persuade FATF that Pakistan is moving in the right direction.

Pakistan has been cited before by the Financial Action Task Force for its financial regulatory deficiencies.  Despite the history of shortcomings, Western nations have continued to saturate Pakistan with foreign aid.  Without adequate money laundering an CFT controls in place, there is a high risk of any such military and development aid being abused by malicious actors without fear of detection or prosecution.

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FATF’s terrorist charity typologies

July 9, 2013

The Financial Action Task Force, an international financial watchdog, has updated its “Recommendation 8” pertaining to government oversight of nonprofit organizations.  (Thanks to Arye Glozman who sent in a link to the report).

Overall, the revised recommendations show greater deference to the nonprofit sector and urge restraint by governments in regulating charities than the 2002 version.  This deference is a bit strange considering that using charities as vessels for funding terrorism has not decreased since 2002 then, neither in the West as illustrated by organizations such as the Holy Land Foundation and WAMY Canada, nor in the Middle East and Northern Africa where Gulf-based charities have played a central role in funding and arming Islamist rebels of the Arab Spring.

That being said, the FATF report does present a useful set of typologies to categorize four different types of terrorist “misuse” of nonprofit groups:

  1. Front charities, where everybody from the donors to the charity workers to the beneficiaries knows that the charity is a sham designed to fund terrorism.
  2. Organizations defrauding donors by telling them the money is going toward legitimate programs but then redirect the proceeds to terrorism.
  3. Branch offices of charities defrauding headquarters by misleading the leadership about the branch’s actual programs.
  4. Charity workers abusing their positions to distribute aid to militants.

The “charities” used by Osama bin Laden to funnel money from wealthy Saudi donors to Al Qaeda in the 1990s are a good example of type #1.  Jamaat-ud-Dawa in Pakistan is a good example of a front charity today, with donors and recipients understanding that the money is really for the Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist group.  Many analysts would probably say that the Holy Land Foundation fell into type #2, with donors unwittingly funding Hamas (although some donors knew that their zakat was funding “resistance” against Israel).  Islamic Relief Worldwide can be associated with types #3 and #4 by having a branch office in Gaza that passed money along to Hamas, allegedly without the knowledge of headquarters in England.

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Black money news: recommended reading

March 8, 2013

• Jiminy cricket! Our friend El Grillo says a “Stockholm suicide bomber falsely claimed student loans to fund his terrorist activity.”  The latest case of debt financing the jihadmore>>

• The good news is that Indian financial institutions are getting better about filing suspicious transaction reports. The bad news is that it makes it look like India has experienced a 300 percent increase in terrorist financing activity since last year.  Maybe they have… more>>

• Which way is the wind blowing?  Towards Iran.  Just ask Europe about its renewable energy sanctions waiver for Iranian wind power.  Thanks to Willauer Prosky for sending this in… more>>

• International financial watchdog FATF is supposed to counter the financing of terrorism. But lately it seems more focused on getting countries to pass meaningless laws and high-fiving itself… more from Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld>>

Money Jihad has covered the illicit wildlife trade, particularly in cheetahs by rich Arab buyers. But even we didn’t know how extensive the cheetah market has become in Dubai.  No reporting yet on how the smugglers use the revenues… more>>

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Bangladesh overwhelmed by the financial jihad

November 26, 2012

Bangladesh continues to teach the world more and more about the collusion between Islamic sharia financial institutions and terrorist organizations.

First there was the revelation that IBBL uses zakat to fund terrorists.  Then there was the U.S. Senate’s damaging report about HSBC last summer which highlighted the British bank’s relationships with IBBL and another sinister sharia bank in Bangladesh, the Social Islami Bank Limited.

The revelations probably had something to do with FATF issuing a warning to Bangladesh to clean up its act and tighten the screws on terror financing.  The government of Bangladesh is indeed trying to, but the jihadi swamp there is so foul, and sharia banking is so dominant over conventional banking, that one wonders if the swamp can ever be drained.

This informative November article from the Eurasia Review provides some excellent background on the last 20 years of terrorist financing in Bangladesh and how the country wound up in its current stew with FATF:

Bangladesh: Banking For Terror – Analysis

By: SATP
November 12, 2012

By Sanchita Bhattacharya

In what seems a logical culmination of events, Bangladesh has been given time until February 2013 to address deficiencies in its fight against money-laundering and terror-financing to avert black-listing by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF)…

…[T]he U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigation, in its July 17, 2012, report titled U.S. Vulnerabilities to Money Laundering, Drugs and Terrorist Financing: HSBC Case History, disclosed that two Bangladesh-based banks, Islami Bank Bangladesh Limited (IBBL) and Social Islami Bank Limited (SIBL) were involved in terror financing. Regarding the functioning of HSBC, it was mentioned that the bank acted as a financier to clients seeking to route funds from countries like Mexico, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, North Korea, Cuba, Sudan, Myanmar, Japan and Russia. The report also stated that the HSBC supplied dollars to IBBL and SIBL, ignoring evidence of their links to terror financing. HSBC did not submit these two banks to enhanced monitoring for suspicious transactions, despite recommendation by HSBC’s own Financial Intelligence Group (FIG).

According to the document, SIBL’s ownership stakes were held by two Saudi Arabia based non-governmental organizations (NGOs): the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO) – implicated in terrorist financing by the U.S. administration and included on the list of those prohibited to do business in the country; and Lajnat-al-Birr-al-Islam (Benevolence International Foundation, BIF), one of al Qaeda’s financers.

It was noted, further, that Saudi Arabia’s Al Rajhi Bank, also engaged in suspicious transaction, had a 37 per cent ownership in IBBL. HSBC also had maintained an association with Al Rajhi, a member of al Qaeda’s “Golden Chain” – a list including at least 20 top Saudi and Gulf States’ financial sponsors of al Qaeda, including bankers, businessmen, and former ministers.

The U.S. report on terror financing was not a recent finding. Since 9/11, the U.S. has taken strong steps to halt the flow of funds to terrorist organizations under Executive Order 13224 and related elements of the USA Patriotic Act.

The exposure of the unholy nexus between banking establishments and terrorist activities in Bangladesh can be traced back to the watershed country-wide serial bomb blasts on August 17, 2005. 459 explosions had been orchestrated in 63 of the country’s 64 Districts (excluding Munshiganj), killing three persons and injuring 100 others, on that date. After the serial blasts, which were orchestrated by the Jamaat ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), the role of IBBL in promoting religious terror was brought under scrutiny, when Bangladesh Home Ministry constituted a committee to investigate terror financing. Subsequent to the arrest of the JMB ‘chief’ Shaikh Abdur Rahman and his second in command Siddiqui Islam alias Bangla Bhai, and the subsequent seizure of some banking documents, the investigation team documented suspicious transactions with IBBL branches in Sylhet, Gazipur and Savar, where violations of the Anti-Money Laundering Act were noticed. The Act which came into existence in 2002 was last amended on June 20, 2011. Rahman and Bangla Bhai were also found to have accounts with IBBL. The two were eventually hanged on March 30, 2007 – Rahman in Comilla Jail and Bangla Bhai in Mymensingh Prison.

Read the rest of this entry ?

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Pakistan falters on terrorism funding

November 16, 2012

Much like the recent ultimatum given to Turkey for its insufficient laws against the financing of terrorism, FATF may blacklist Pakistan if it doesn’t update its laws against money laundering and the financing of militants.

In an editorial from the Express Tribune (h/t El Grillo), even the journalists of Pakistan realize that the government should stop pointing fingers, and comply with FATF’s guidance to do more to address the actual problem of terrorism, which has led to 40,000 deaths in Pakistan:

Blocking terrorist funding

The United Nations can slap Iran and North Korea-like sanctions on Pakistan next year if the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) standards on curbing money laundering and terror financing are not met. In an attempt to ward off this threat, Pakistan is now lobbying to seek international support and feels that the reason it is being targeted is because the FATF is heavily dominated by Western countries and India. Instead of being worried about the FATF’s member countries’ “political motives”, Pakistan should focus on meeting the requirements set by the international anti-money laundering watchdog, as curbing terrorism is something that should be our top priority in any case. Pakistan has suffered the most from home-grown terror; we have lost more than 40,000 lives in terror attacks. The fact that non-state actors have managed to launch cross-border terror attacks and planned attacks in other countries has put Pakistan in further trouble.

The government has reportedly improved the current legislation on counterterrorism financing, which will soon be presented before parliament for approval. The anti-terror legislation must be brought forward as soon as possible. It is an open secret how some terrorist organisations use to have links to elements within the establishment. Since the government was unable to stop these elements from pursuing a deeply flawed policy, the least it can do is put a firm stop to terrorist-funding by bringing in a strong anti-terror legislation. Money laundering is one of the primary sources of finance through which terrorist groups are able to fund their activities. If this source of financing can be cut off, we would be able to somewhat control our terror problems.

Pakistanis live in constant fear of terror attacks on both military and civilian targets. Ridding our soil of terrorists is a win-win for both Pakistan and the international community. It is about time we took this important step and brought forward the anti-terror legislation.

In a sane world, Pakistan would have already been recognized globally for its state sponsorship of terrorism years ago.  But to the degree that international pressure will bring about some marginal legal and financial reform, FATF’s standards are probably a helpful incentive.

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Turkey failing to stop terror finance

October 28, 2012

The Financial Action Task Force has threatened to suspend Turkey if it doesn’t fix its laws on terror financing within the next four months.  The financial and money laundering watchdog organization says that Turkey doesn’t yet have a legal means for freezing terrorist assets.  How can Turkey be a good NATO ally if it can’t even identify and freeze the assets of terrorists in their banking system?

Turkey probably should have been suspended long ago for its sponsorship of IHH, the radical charity that manned the Gaza flotilla and has since been designated by Germany as a donor of Hamas, but FATF is more focused on financial regulatory frameworks.

From Bloomberg (h/t news link from TTFB) on  Oct. 19:

Turkey Given Four Months to Fix Terror Finance Law

By Selcan Hacaoglu

Turkey was given a February deadline by the OECD’s Financial Action Task Force to tighten laws blocking the financing of terrorist groups or face suspension from the organization.

Turkey needs to adopt legislation “to remedy deficiencies in its terrorist financing offense” and set up “a legal framework for identifying and freezing terrorist assets,” the Task Force, sponsored by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, said on its website today at the end of a three-day meeting in Paris.

Failure to do so by Feb. 22 will result in Turkey’s suspension, it said. The Task Force said it is “deeply concerned by Turkey’s continued failure to take action.”

The group had warned in June it would “call upon its members to apply countermeasures” against Turkey if rules weren’t tightened by October. A terror financing bill drafted to address them is still held up in Turkey’s parliament. Exclusion by the Task Force could impede transactions with Western banks.

A suspension would hurt Turkey’s reputation and “alert the international financial world, possibly causing some problems in transactions,” Nihat Ali Ozcan, a terrorism analyst at the Economic Policy Research Foundation in Ankara, said by telephone today. “However, since nearly half of the Turkish economy is not registered, tightening rules might also put the government under domestic pressure from some circles, even including its grassroots supporters.”

Busy Schedule

Turkish officials say the measure has been delayed by a busy legislative schedule…

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