Posts Tagged ‘Iran’

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Nefarious finance: recommended reading

April 3, 2014
  • Back in each other’s arms:  Iran’s financial relationship with Hamas “has returned to what it was,” says Iran’s shura council… more>>
  • The pro-Hamas Islamic charity IHH  is hinting that it will launch another Turkish-based, Mavi Marmara-style “peace flotilla”… more>>
  • Al Qaeda in Iraq and Syria has its own revenue sources and doesn’t feel the need to answer to Ayman al-Zawahiri… more>>
  • Smuggling gold to keep Iran in the black?  Prosecutors uncover a sanctions evasion crime ring in Turkey that may go all the way to Prime Minister Erdogan’s office… more>>
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Passport fraud poses terror finance threat

April 1, 2014

The presence of two Iranians with stolen passports on the ill-fated Malaysian Airlines flight 370 highlighted the ease with which foreign nationals from state sponsors of terrorism can fly with a false identity and gain entry to a NATO country.

Although the men may not have been responsible for the plane crash, the situation raises the question of how often passports are stolen or forged and what threats this presents to the criminals’ purported country of origin.

Interpol says that only three countries in the world screen air passengers against Interpol’s database of stolen passports.  Phony passports are a big problem too.  Earlier this month, customs officials in Dubai seized 52 fake passports on the way into the U.A.E.

In 2010, ABC News reported, “A decade after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks brought to light the dangers of fake IDs, federal undercover agents are still able to easily obtain genuine U.S. e-Passports using clearly fraudulent information that should have raised red flags at the State Department.”  The Government Accountability Office had confirmed previously that obtaining a real passport using fake identification could be done “easily.”  More recently, the Daily Mail reported that fake passports can be purchased through the online Silk Road black market.

Benefits of a fraudulent passport

Individuals can carry out many activities with a fraudulent passport other than boarding a plane.  They can set up bank accounts and apply for credit cards, like one eastern European mob boss did in Canterbury—accounts which he used “to rip off casinos, high street stores, petrol stations and banks.”  Hackers can also set up bank accounts in the U.S. from overseas using false passports, and use those accounts as repositories for money obtained as the result of malware attacks, as a case from a few years ago demonstrated.

Basically, obtaining a fraudulent passport allows malicious actors to “buy citizenship” in a target country.  The Telegraph reported this month that a Bulgarian passport can be purchased underground for £150,000, which enables the buyer to pose as a European Union citizen, even if he or she has a criminal record, and become eligible for government services and public benefits.

PBS’s Frontline has reported that Al Qaeda uses counterfeit passports and has conducted passport forgery workshops “to travel internationally in order to raise funds, recruit operatives, train the operatives in Afghanistan and send them out to plan and conduct terrorist attacks.”

False identities also complicate law enforcement’s efforts to investigate crime.  The CBC recently highlighted the threat of “synthetic ID fraud,” saying that “Fraudsters have been able to obtain driver’s licences, passports, phone numbers and credit cards, as well as open bank accounts, take out bank loans and create companies, all under fake names. By the time police move in, many of the fraudsters have vanished, leaving investigators trying to locate people who never existed.”

Diplomatic passports

Possession of diplomatic passports by ambassadors, consuls, and other diplomatic officials immunize travelers but from bag searches at airports.  This “diplomatic pouch” carve-out presents a significant smuggling risk.

Financial crimes analyst Kenneth Rijock revealed that Hezbollah agents based in South America were granted diplomatic passports by Venezuela, meaning:

Hezbollah agents could transport cocaine in international commerce, without fear of arrest. They also can carry bulk cash, or financial instruments into offshore financial centres, this moving Hezbollah drug profits along on their journey to controlled entities inside Lebanon.  One wonders whether how many Hezbollah agents are running around Europe with Lebanese diplomatic passports, moving cash or cashier’s cheques through EU banks, in support of the organisation’s terrorist goals…

The Venezuela connection was followed by an uproar in Canada over an Iranian national who entered the country with a diplomatic passport issued by St. Kitts & Nevis after the Iranian paid a $1 million bribe to Caribbean officials.

Author of the book Dirty Dealing Peter Lilley once observed that possession of a diplomatic passport from “an obscure country” could be red flag for money laundering.

What can be done

There can always be tighter controls and better physical standards for passports to prevent counterfeiting, the same way that officials do with currency.  More countries could use Interpol’s database of lost and stolen passports, although there are costs associated with that.  The Heritage Foundation has argued that the biographical questionnaire in the U.S. passport application should be modified.  Individuals should also take steps to safeguard their own passports from being stolen or copied.

Another measure to consider would be for some countries to increase the penalties for counterfeit passports.  Hollywood actor Wesley Snipes got off with simply being able to return to his country without even paying a fine after allegedly being caught abroad with a fake South African passport.

This piece has also been published at Terror Finance Blog.

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Illicit transfer news: recommended reading

March 13, 2014
  • Eight have been arrested in raids over zakat raised in Britain to fund terrorism in Syria… more>>
  • Is a millionaire bitcoin trader copping a plea over money laundering allegations?  More>>
  • By sea, land, and air—Iran’s history of busted arms smuggling operations is exposed… more>>
  • Speaking of Iranian weapons trafficking, Iraq has been a helpful facilitator to their neighbor lately… more>>
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Tricky business in France: news roundup

March 9, 2014
  • BNP Paribas may have disguised transactions with Iran. A major settlement with the U.S. over the alleged sanctions violation may be in the offing… more>>
  • Credit Agricole and Societe Generale are under investigation by U.S. officials for helping Iran skirt sanctions too… more>> (h/t Sal)
  • During this current sanctions pause, delegates representing 120 French corporations have traveled to Tehran about potential business deals… more>>
  • U.S. regulators are concerned about France’s intentions to build satellites for the United Arab Emirates with U.S. components… more>>
  • French anti-money laundering regulator Tracfin finds that crime rings are increasingly reliant on bitcoin and other virtual curriencies… more>> (Fr)
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Illicit transfer news: recommended reading

February 20, 2014
  • Palestinian Islamic Jihad “receives between $100-$150 million dollars annually from Iran,” says an Iranian expert… more>>
  • FinCEN shuts down a Michigan-based hawala dealer who sent 8,000 wires to Yemen and never checked a single customer’s ID… more>>
  • We don’t know how much money is financing terrorism, and we don’t know how much it costs to combat its financing either, so how do we know if what we’re doing is working?  More>>
  • A New Jersey company illegally shipped $70,000 worth of protective gloves to Iranmore>>
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Mookie moves to export the revolution

February 17, 2014

Bahrainis busted for smuggling weapons from Iraq

Bahrain is alleging that Iraqi militia strongman Muqtada “Mookie” al-Sadr is training fifth columnists to seize power in Bahrain when the time is right.

Yet the headline and allegation cannot be read at face value:  this Bahraini newspaper Gulf Daily News represents the ruling Sunni monarchy and so does the legal system that produced the forced confessions of the Shia defendants in the alleged Sadrist plot.

By the way, it is cases like this that Bahrain’s neighbor Saudi Arabia may replicate if and when it seeks to enforce its new informant rewards program.  Like Bahrain, Saudi Arabia has strategic interests in crippling internal Shia dissidents.

That being said, the very real possibility that Sadr would back elements to Bahrain and wait to take over has a definite ring of truth to it.  Iran and its Iraqi ally Sadr would both love to see an arc of Shia control spanning from Aleppo to Manama.

Here’s the Gulf Daily News account, with thanks to LatLongPacific for notifying Money Jihad about the story:

Arms smuggling six remanded

By NOOR ZAHRA,  Posted on Friday, February 07, 2014

SIX men who allegedly smuggled large hauls of weapons into Bahrain were yesterday remanded in police custody for 30 days.

The Bahrainis reportedly travelled to Iraq last year to receive militia training in weapons with Shi’ite strongman Moqtada Al Sadr’s Mahdi Army, according to case files.

They have been accused of conspiring with a foreign country, joining the movement of Al Sadr, recruiting others and being part of a terrorist cell.

They have also been charged with receiving militia training in weapons and explosives.

One of the men, who was arrested on September 25 last year, was allegedly recruited through a middleman in Iraq.

“We went to Iraq and received militia training along with the army of Moqtada Al Sadr,” said the 23-year-old in his statement to prosecutors.

“The Iraqis told us not to get involved with riots in Bahrain, so we will not be arrested over something small.

“They told us to prepare ourselves for when chaos happened and that is when we come into the picture.

“We went to Karbala and received training in AK47s, explosives and RPGs. We also received $400 each.”

His co-defendant, an 18-year-old Bahraini, told prosecutors they used charity money donated by political societies in attacks against policemen…

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The money jihad: recommended reading

February 13, 2014
  • A senior Al Qaeda facilitator/financier in Iran is “more active than ever”… more>>
  • Sharia-compliant finance was concocted by the Muslim Brotherhood to undermine the Western financial system and establish the banking backbone of a neo-Caliphate, says the American Center for Democracy… more>>
  • Al Qaeda affiliates have more money than Al Qaeda Central. Time to rethink who’s calling the shots… more>>
  • Sen. Warner says that he knows from the intelligence community that what happened to Target shoppers in its credit card breach “happens daily to financial institutions”… more>>
  • Banks and businessmen should keep an eye on Turkey because it’s still helping Iran evade sanctionsmore>>
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Recommended reading: front charities, ATM bombings, and sanctions violations

January 30, 2014
  • Members of a terror cell that bombed ATM machines across Bahrain have been convicted for detonating explosives and laundering money… more>>
  • Money for training of Islamic militants around the world was routed through Vienna by the Turkish charity IHH, reports a Bosnian newspaper… more>>
  • An Iranian-U.S. dual citizen packed 44 boxes of blueprints and technical specs about the F-35 fighter jet and shipped them off to Iran.  Customs agents weren’t fooled by his shipping label: “House Hold Goods”… more>>
  • Four years after it was revealed that IFCO helped funnel money for George Galloway to Hamas, the IRS might strip IFCO of its tax-exempt status… more>>
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Top terror finance stories of 2013

December 30, 2013

From massacres on the streets of Syria to the streets of Boston, 2013 has offered far too many illustrations of how terror-borne bloodshed is financed:

  1. Sunni and Western powers risk funding Syrian rebels despite their Al Qaeda allegiance
    Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, the U.S., U.K., and France have provided money and supplies to the enemies of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad despite the risk of the materiel falling into the wrong hands.  Gulf-based support has gone directly toward Salafist fighters; Western aid has been targeted toward the supposedly moderate Free Syrian Army, but entire brigades of the FSA have pledged allegiance to al-Nusra Front—Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria—during 2013.  Reports this month of a “suspension” of U.S. aid have been somewhat exaggerated; as one official conceded, “the suspension of aid only applies to the opposition in northern Syria, adding that supply lines from Jordan in the south would continue.”  Foreign support has prolonged the conflict in Syria and increased the chances for Al Qaeda to take over the country.
  2. Boston marathon bombing made possible by Saudi money
    North Caucuses militants have been funded for decades by Saudi Arabia.  The Saudis and their wealthy expatriate terrorists like Ibn al-Khattab  and Osama Bin Laden and invested millions of dollars into the training and recruitment of fighters, the construction of radical mosques, and the creation of jihadist websites in Slavic languages.  Tamerlan Tsarnaev read and engaged with these websites and pursued support from these Saudi-sponsored sources when he traveled to Russia in 2012.  Tsarnaev and his brother Dzhokhar also learned from Inspire magazine by deceased terror imam Anwar al-Awlaki, who presided over Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.In effect, Saudi money created the breeding environment both online and on the ground in the North Caucuses in which the Tsarnaevs’ plot was hatched.

    Sadly, the media and public officials have been slow to recognize and expose the connections between the Saudis, the North Caucasus militants, and their followers living in North America.  Two Democrat-appointed federal judges inexplicably reversed the conviction this year of Pete Seda, a Muslim “peace activist” who sent money through a Saudi-based charity from Oregon to Chechen terrorists in the early 2000s.

  3. The U.S. became the world’s #1 energy producer in 2013.  This development reduces our dependence on Arab oil and the flow of petrodollars that fund terrorism.
  4. The compensation of victims of Iranian-sponsored terrorism was ignored during negotiations in Geneva on Iran’s nuclear program.
  5. The Somali Islamic terrorist group al-Shabaab’s finances rebounded in 2013 despite their loss of control in 2012 of the key harbor in Kismayo to Kenyan, African Union, and allied forces.  The main ingredients in their financial resurgence included an expansion al-Shabaab’s lucrative charcoal smuggling operation, the resumption of payments from the Dahabshiil money service to al-Shabaab, and indirect support from the Gulf.  The funding has allowed operations such as killing sprees in Mogadishu and the September terrorist attack on Westgate mall in Nairobi, Kenya.  Nevertheless, a British court injunction has forced Barclays to continue partnering with Dahabshiil to facilitate remittances to Somalia.
  6. Read the rest of this entry ?
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Nuclear smugglers get slap on wrists

November 29, 2013

Germans sentence exporters to 4 years for trading with Iran

What is the penalty for sending nuclear components from Germany through third parties in what is being called “the largest violation of the trade embargo with Iran”?  Four years in prison.

Meanwhile, individuals who have violated international sanctions to places like Cuba and Iraq have faced equally long sentences for sending money or merchandise that is far less dangerous than what these men did.

From JN1 earlier this month:

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Ayatollah amasses $95b in expropriated assets

November 27, 2013

Reuters has published a three-part report (hat tip to Sal) on how the Iranian agency Setad, purportedly an office administering unclaimed property, is actually a vessel for confiscating the assets of regime opponents, religious minorities, and emigrants.  Setad then auctions off those assets to make more money for the Ayatollah Khamenei.

Kai Ryssdal of the radio program Marketplace interviewed one of the Reuters reporters about the investigation.  Take a listen:


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