Posts Tagged ‘ransom’

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Financial war on terror news: suggested reading

November 27, 2014
  • “No doubt” that halal certifiers fund extremism, says member of parliamentmore>>
  • ISIS wants to mint its own coins—not for practical, economic reasons—but to impose sharia lawmore>>
  • How to defend against piracymore>>
  • Fresh analysis puts cold water on claims that looted antiquities are ISIS‘s 2nd biggest revenue source… more>>
  • The fine line between paying informants for intelligence and paying ransoms to terrorists just got fuzzier… more>>
  • Yusuf Qaradawi, the world’s most prominent sharia finance advocate, calls on Muslims to take arms against Israel… more>>
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10 tips for businesses to avoid financing terror

November 24, 2014

If you run or work for a medium or small business that can’t afford to have an entire compliance department, or even a compliance officer, here are a few tips that will help your business reduce its risk of inadvertently funding a terrorist organization, running afoul of federal authorities, or both:

  1. Conduct due diligence before taking on new accounts, and do not rely exclusively on Internet searches for due diligence.
  2. For international accounts it is doubly important to carry out thorough due diligence (including overseas business partners, banks, security providers, and charities) before signing agreements with them. You will probably have to contract out for investigation services, but it’s worth the expense.
  3. If your business promotes or authorizes employee payroll deductions to make charitable contributions, review the list of participating charities. Do not offer payroll deductions for donations to charities suspected of financing terrorism or charities known to have worked with designated terrorists. This would include Islamic Relief USA and the Zakat Foundation (see here and here).
  4. If your business requires or offers diversity or equal opportunity training, do not make payments to any organization or person to conduct the training who has been implicated in terrorist financing schemes such as members of the Council on American-Islamic Relations or the Islamic Society of North America, both of which were unindicted co-conspirators in the Holy Land Foundation Hamas-financing case.
  5. Think twice before offering sharia-compliant investment accounts to employees or allowing a conventional retirement brokers to offer sharia funds to your employees. These financial products are less transparent with respect to fund management by sharia advisory boards whose members often share close ties with the international Muslim Brotherhood and are not subject to disclosure requirements on where they channel their profits.
  6. Do not buy corporate fruit baskets or other gift baskets from Edible Arrangements. Their CEO operates a foundation out of his office at Edible Arrangements allegedly linked to Pakistani front charities that fund Islamist militants.
  7. Do not have business lunches, meetings, or conferences catered by halal food providers such as IFANCA and Crescent Foods, which have been endorsed by or have catered events for entities that are suspected to have financed terrorism.
  8. If you are asked by an importer whether your business can ship to or “enter an Arab Port?” do not answer the question. That is code language used to ascertain your business’s willingness to participate in the Arab League’s boycott against Israel. Answering the question helps those who oppose the existence of Israel and will lead to fines by the U.S. Office of Antiboycott Compliance.
  9. Don’t let your data or your employees be held for ransom. Ask your IT department or technology provider about their security protocols against ransomware. Make adequate plans to protect your employees from abduction during overseas travel. Paying ransoms will serve to enrich criminal or terrorist groups which will be costlier and less secure for your industry in the long run.
  10. Bookmark and read blogs such as Money Jihad, Kenneth Rijock’s Financial Crime Blog, and Shariah Finance Watch for the latest threat trends in terror finance risk management. These websites are free unlike some of the other specialized news sites which are informative but fee-based.
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Why it was right to refuse James Foley’s ransom

August 22, 2014

ISIS demanded a $132 million ransom a week prior to their beheading of American journalist James Foley. The New York Times reports that the U.S. declined to pay.

Several commentators including David Rohde of Reuters and James Traub of Foreign Policy have taken the opportunity to question the so-called “U.S. and U.K.” policy against paying ransoms.

Actually, refusing to pay ransoms to terrorists isn’t just an idiosyncrasy of American and British policy; it is international law. UN Resolution 1904 forbids the payment of ransoms. Furthermore, an agreement by the G8 in 2013 pledged to refrain from paying ransoms.

The critics of the “U.S.” no-ransom policy omit this information either out of laziness or bias.  True, some European governments pay ransoms under the table, which is very damaging to international security, but that is in violation of international accords and their own publicly stated policies.

Transferring funds of any kind from the U.S. to ISIS would also constitute material support for a foreign terrorist organization under U.S. Code 2339B.

Not only is America prohibited from paying ransoms under international law, agreements, and domestic law, but it would also be foolish to pay ransoms to terrorist groups. Funding an enemy group that the U.S. Air Force is simultaneously carrying out missions against would be, to put it mildly, illogical. Paying ransoms to ISIS would also aid the enemy of Iraq–a nation that U.S. troops fought alongside with to protect from insurgent terrorism.

Moreover, paying ransoms only serves to increase the likelihood that Americans and other Westerners living or traveling in the Middle East will be kidnapped. Payments also drive up the price of the ransoms demanded.

Critics would have you believe that it’s time for “a debate” about paying ransoms. The debate came and went when Resolution 1904 passed the UN. The would-be ransom payers lost the debate back then.

In summary, abductions are tragic but they will be more commonplace if we started complying with ransom demands.

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Mexican extortion scheme spreads to Texas

August 14, 2014

“Virtual kidnapping” ransom schemes have migrated from Mexico to El Paso according to border city medical doctors. Criminal groups call the physicians and tell them a loved one has been kidnapped, and demand that a ransom payment be wired to Mexico.

This development is ominous because it indicates the spread of socially destabilizing extortion rackets from the Northern Triangle and Mexico into a U.S. border state. Whether drug cartels, human smugglers, cuota syndicates, street gangs, or garden variety con artists are behind the scheme isn’t really the point.

The thing to do is to educate the people who are at risk for being targeted, to persuade them to report such incidents to law enforcement, and to refuse payment. Otherwise, if the ball really gets rolling and Americans comply with ransom demands more often, then that will drive up the amounts demanded and the trend will become more difficult to stop.

Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, “doctors without borders”… From the El Paso Times (h/t @1389):

‘Virtual kidnapping’ scam targets El Paso doctors

Scam strikes area medical professionals, does not appear cartel-related

By Daniel Borunda / El Paso Times

Posted:   08/02/2014

A terrifying telephone scam known as a “virtual kidnapping” is targeting doctors in El Paso and other Texas border cities.

An El Paso Police Department spokesman on Friday confirmed that police are aware of the extortion scam and a warning that has been circulating among the local medical community about the threatening phone calls, which purportedly come from a drug cartel.

The scheme is a new version of similar telephone scams and “there is nothing to indicate” it is cartel related, police spokesman Officer Javier Sambrano said. The number of reported doctor scam cases was not available.

Virtual kidnappings sprung up in Mexico several years ago feeding off fears of drug violence and abductions. It is called a “virtual kidnapping” because the victim is made to believe a loved one has been abducted when no kidnapping has taken place.

In the latest version, a person calls a doctor’s office and asks for a doctor by name. The caller claims to be from a drug cartel and that the cartel has kidnapped the doctor’s son or daughter. There is sometimes a crying child on the phone. The caller barks instructions, demands a ransom amount and the victim is ordered to wire the money to Mexico.

The victim does not realize no one has been actually kidnapped until after sending the money.

“It is important to take a minute to step back, try to think and remain calm,” Sambrano said.

The scam has been reported in other parts of the Texas-Mexico border.

Last month in South Texas, KRGV reported that a doctor in McAllen received a call claiming that his daughter had been kidnapped by the Zetas cartel. The caller demanded $50,000 or they would deliver his daughter’s head in a bag. Then, a girl crying and begging for her life was put on the phone. The doctor said that the call seemed frighteningly real for about 30 seconds before he became suspicious.

No ransom was paid. The doctor’s daughter was safe and had never been kidnapped.

In April, the FBI website warned about virtual kidnappings targeting U.S. citizens staying in hotels in Mexico.

“Callers impersonate themselves as cartel members or corrupt police officers who claim they’ve kidnapped a loved one and demand a ransom,” according to an FBI podcast. The victim is told to follow instructions in a scam that can run for three days. The FBI said that scammers are suspected to be Mexican prisoners using smuggled phones.

The FBI said the calls have warning signs — the calls come from an outside area code, the ransom is only accepted by wire transfer and the calls never come from the victim’s phone.

Sambrano said the calls are a variation of the “emergency” or “relative in Mexico” telephone scams that have previously hit the El Paso region. In those scams, a caller tricks a victim into believing they are a relative in Mexico. They usually start a call saying “Guess who it is?” They then claim to be the person that the victim guessed. The caller usually says they are coming to visit but then call to say they have been in an accident or arrested in Mexico and ask for money to be wired to save them from their predicament…

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Paks blame Afghans for extortion in Peshawar

June 20, 2014

What unbelievable gall Pakistani intelligence is demonstrating by blaming “Afghan nationals” for ongoing extortion, kidnap-for-ransom, and murder-for-hire schemes in Peshawar.

It was Pakistani intelligence that created and funded the Taliban and other jihadist groups in the first place to give Pakistan “strategic depth” in their ruthless desire to gain any conceivable edge over India. It was Pakistan that funded radical curriculum and instruction at madrassas and Afghan orphanages.

Now that their efforts have begun turning their own cities into charnel houses, they’re distancing themselves from their own creation.

Pakistan didn’t seem to mind harboring Osama Bin Laden, because he didn’t attack Pakistan while he lived there. But Pakistan does mind when his buddies start making mischief on their own streets.

Message to Pakistan: you made your own bed, now lie in it.

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Lessons learned from 6 big terrorist windfalls

April 29, 2014

Terror finance trials over the last ten years have frequently involved transfers by individuals of a few thousand dollars to terrorist organizations abroad. Sometimes those cases get as much attention from the news media and law enforcement as multi-million dollar cases of funding terrorism.

This tendency is unfortunate because it causes us to lose sight of the big time patrons of terrorism and their methods. Small transfers are likelier to involve individual actors, small groups, and criminal activity. High-dollar terrorist transactions are likelier to involve state sponsorship, or at least large organizations such as major charities, and sometimes corporations which are targeted for extortion or kidnapping-for-ransom schemes by militants. Consider:

• France paid $15 to $20 million to the Taliban for the 2011 release of reporters Stéphane Taponier and Hervé Ghesquière. France may have also paid a $34 million ransom to Al Qaeda in North Africa for the release of four captives last year, and an $18 million ransom just last week to release four journalists abducted by Syrian rebels.

• The Holy Land Foundation, largest Islamic “charity” in the U.S. in the early 2000s, gave $12.4 million to Hamas. George W. Bush said that the money HLF raised was “used by Hamas to recruit suicide bombers and support their families.” The leaders of HLF were found guilty of providing material support to terrorism and received sentences ranging from 15 to 65 years in federal prison.

• Qatar has spent an estimated $3 billion (or, less credibly, $5 billion) to fund Al Qaeda-linked rebels in Syria. In so doing they’ve helped turn Syria into a charnel house with over 150,000 dead since 2011.

• Carlos the Jackal received, according to different accounts, either $20 million or $50 million from the Saudi government in 1975 to release the OPEC ministers he had taken hostage. Allegedly, this money wasn’t used by Carlos himself but was pumped back toward international terrorist causes. Eventually, Carlos the Jackal was caught and sentenced to life in prison in France on separate charges.

• The Born brother heirs to the multinational Bunge and Born corporation were forced to pay a $60 million ransom to leftwing Montoneros terrorists in Argentina in 1974. Some of the money may have been kept in shadowy Argentine and Cuban banks. Mario Firmenich, mastermind of the plot, was convicted in 1987.

• The Palestinian Authority just pledged another $74 million to spend as incentives and stipends for terrorist “martyrs” and their families from their annual budget.

Several lessons should be learned from the above sampling of terrorist jackpots:

1. Don’t pay ransoms. Paying ransoms is the quickest way to fund millions of dollars worth of future terrorist attacks and to increase the likelihood of larger ransom demands down the road.

2. In cases of suspected terrorist financing, always look at both the source and the beneficiary of the funding—not just one party in isolation. With the Holy Land Foundation, we tend to focus mostly on HLF as a contributor, without examining how Hamas uses Islamic charities in the West to finance its operations. Likewise in the Taponier and Ghesquière case, what little coverage there was in English language media focused on the ransom negotiations and French foreign policy, while completely ignoring the aftermath of what the Taliban and the Baryal Qari group did with the money. We learn more from each case when we look at both sides of the equation. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Arab gangs to captives: pay up or lose organs

March 17, 2014

This is a follow up to earlier Money Jihad coverage of the organ trade that enriches Bedouins and Hamas.  If anything, the ransom demands appear to be increasing as captives’ relatives in Europe pay off the abductors.

Sweden is specifically named as one of the countries where ransom demands to relatives have been successful.  Perhaps Swedish authorities should look apply more scrutiny to financial transfers made to that region of the world, to ensure that migrants in their own country aren’t inflating ransom demands and keeping the illicit organ market in business.

From IB Times (h/t to @PaulWilko657):

Europol: Arab Gangs Threatening to Kill and Sell Organs of Africa Migrants

  • By Lewis Dean March 5, 2014

Arab gangs are threatening to kill and sell the organs of African migrants if relatives refuse to pay ransoms in time.

European crime agency Europol has said the migrants are being kidnapped by criminals who then demand family and friends living in Europe pay thousands of euros for their release.

The agency has warned EU law enforcement authorities about the kidnapping of ‘irregular migrants’ and the subsequent extortion of their relatives or friends who are residing in Europe.

Ransoms extorted have ranged from €4,400 to €25,700 and have involved multiple negotiation steps where the amount demanded by kidnappers has increased incrementally.

Payments were made to multiple cash handlers used by organised criminal groups in locations inside and outside of Europe.

The agency said individuals orginally from Eritrea in the Horn of Africa, but who now live in Sweden, and at least two other European countries have been subject to extortion as relatives are held hostage and tortured in the Sinai Peninsula, in Eygpt.

The extortion operations were run by organised criminals of Bedouin origin, who exploit irregular migrants who had been kidnapped in Eritrea and Sudan.

In some cases, hostages have been provided with phones to call European contacts and request cash for their release.

In one instance, a victim’s friend living in Sweden was contacted by two Swedish-speaking suspects on local mobile phone numbers demanding €24,000 for a victim being held in the Sinai.

Threatening that non-compliance would result in the victim’s death and sale of their organs, the suspects attempted to arrange face-to-face meetings in Sweden for the handover of ransom payments…

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