Posts Tagged ‘Treasury Department’

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Treasury hopes ISIS will go broke on its own

October 28, 2014

In remarks last week (hat tip to @HSPI), Treasury official David Cohen confirmed that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria makes $1 million a day from oil sales, that it has made $20 million this year in ransoms, and that it makes millions a month from extortion. Cohen laid out plans to counter each facet of ISIS’s funding.

Cohen also acknowledged that some of Treasury’s tools aren’t well suited to the task of bankrupting ISIS, but noted with some optimism that “Attempting to govern the cities, towns and sprawling territory in Iraq and Syria where it currently operates, much less delivering some modicum of services to the millions of people it seeks to subjugate, is expensive,” and that ISIS would ultimately be unable “to meet the cost of governing.”

To support his argument, Cohen cited a journalist with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who reckons that, although ISIS is well funded, the budgetary demands of controlling such a large territory exceed even their financial resources. ISIS’s revenues may be $1.5 billion annually, but prior Iraqi budgets for the provinces under ISIS’s control exceeded $2.5 billion per year.

ISIS’s potential budget deficits become even starker when one considers that most of its money isn’t spent on public services. Die Welt has reported (hat tip to Puneet) that just one-third of ISIS’s money is spent on providing basic utilities and social services to the population within its territory, while one-third go to salaries for fighters and employees, and one-third is spent on weapons.

So there is hope that ISIS could be taken down a peg financially, but it won’t be through sanctions and monitoring suspicious financial activity: it could come through diplomacy, military action, and by the harsh realities of governance.

(Thanks to Terrorism Watch, El Grillo, and Red Team Red Queen for sending in news coverage of Cohen’s remarks.)

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5 Qataris who fund Al Qaeda

June 30, 2014

In addition to institutional and charitable support by Qatar, Al Qaeda and its offshoots (including jihadists in Syria and Iraq) receive substantial financial support from private Qatari donors and bundlers. Here’s a quick who’s who:

Qatari fundraiser for ISIS

Abd al-Rahman al-Nuaymi

Abd al-Rahman al-Nuaymi
The U.S. Treasury Department describes al-Nuaymi as “a Qatar-based terrorist financier and facilitator who has provided money and material support and conveyed communications to al-Qa’ida and its affiliates in Syria, Iraq, Somalia and Yemen for more than a decade. He was considered among the most prominent Qatar-based supporters of Iraqi Sunni extremists.” Al-Nuaymi transferred $600K to Al Qaeda in Syria in 2013, and sent $2 million monthly to Al Qaeda in Iraq for an undisclosed period of time. He is also described as an interlocutor between Qatari nationals and Al Qaeda in Iraq leaders.

Salim Hasan Khalifa Rashid al-Kuwari
Treasury says al-Kuwari “provides financial and logistical support to al-Qa’ida, primarily through al-Qa’ida facilitators in Iran. Based in Qatar, Kuwari has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in financial support to al-Qa’ida and has provided funding for al-Qa’ida operations, as well as to secure the release of al-Qa’ida detainees in Iran and elsewhere.”

Abdallah Ghanim Mafuz Muslim al-Khawar
According to U.S. officials, “Al-Khawar has worked with Kuwari to deliver money, messages and other material support to al-Qa’ida elements in Iran. Like Kuwari, Khawar is based in Qatar and has helped to facilitate travel for extremists interested in traveling to Afghanistan for jihad.

Khalifa Muhammad Turki al-Subaiy
The UN describes al-Subaiy as “a Qatar-based terrorist financier and facilitator who has provided financial support to, and acted on behalf of, the senior leadership of Al-Qaida (QE.A.4.01). He provided assistance to senior Al-Qaida leader Khalid Sheikh Mohammed prior to Sheikh Mohammed’s capture in March 2003. Since that time, he has provided financial support to Al-Qaida senior leadership in South Asia.” Al-Subaiy served a brief prison sentence in 2008 before being released by Qatar.

Yusuf Qaradawi
The Egyptian-born, Qatar-based spiritual father of the international Muslim Brotherhood sits atop a massive terrorist funding network including the “Union of Good” umbrella network of charities that funds Hamas. Qaradawi was also a sharia adviser for Al Taqwa which provided banking services to Al Qaeda.

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Tracking terror finance and government follies: recommended reading

January 16, 2014
  • The recent designation by the Treasury Department of an Al Qaeda financier neglects to mention that he and his organizations have consorted with Yusuf Qaradawi, spiritual father of the Muslim Brotherhood… more>>
  • New details on the sanctioned Saudi billionaire in Turkey and the cover-up by Recep Erdoğan… more>>
  • Government forces the financial sector to do the lion’s share of work in screening for laundered or terrorist funds, but government doesn’t really want to hear financial institutions’ ideas on how the process could be improved, says industry analyst Tom Keatinge… more>>
  • Monitoring compliance with government financial regulations in a war zone in another continent is easy, right?  One expert explains why it isn’t, and how a UK court got it wrong on Dahabshiil… more>>
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Colombian city a hub for Hezbollah money

January 7, 2014

Lebanese families in Maicao, Colombia, are at the crossroads of a lucrative network of businesses, money launderers, and drug traffickers who send money back to Lebanon to finance Hezbollah, according to a special report from the Miami Herald.

Ali Yalili, a Shia Muslim in Maicao interviewed for the story, told the Herald that Shiites there are “unfairly targeted as financiers of terrorism.”  But evidence from the U.S. Treasury Department strongly demonstrates the important role that Lebanese businessmen and women in Maicao play in filling Hezbollah’s coffers.

Thanks to Sal for sending this over:

Hezbollah financing evolves beyond Colombia’s Muslim communities

By Abraham Mahshie

Special to the Miami Herald

MAICAO, Colombia — Samira Hajj Ahmad flew to Maicaofrom Beirut in 1982 for her honeymoon. She didn’t intend to stay for 31 years. Nor did she expect Hezbollah to follow her.

During her two days of flying to Colombia, war broke out in southern Lebanon, with some of the largest troop movements in her native Beqaa Valley. Israel had invaded southern Lebanon to root out a nascent Shiite extremist group known as Hezbollah that had been using the country as a base from which to attack northern Israel. Her family encouraged her to stay in Maicao, a dusty border town with a free trade zone that is home to Colombia’s largest Muslim population.

Today, Hezbollah is the most powerful political movement in Lebanon — and its influence stretches all the way to Maicao. Each year, millions of dollars of drug money are laundered in Maicao, where some community members openly proclaim their support for Hezbollah. Recent U.S. Treasury Department actions have slowed the flow of cash to terrorist groups, but financiers have fled and new networks have reconstituted that are harder to identify. Meanwhile, the usual suspects — Lebanese descendant Colombians — are tired of taking the blame.

Hajj Ahmad, 49, occasionally reads with shock the Maicao newspaper reports of neighbors blacklisted by the U.S. Treasury Department for financing the terrorist group. Such was the case for a young woman with a pretty face and black hijab or headscarf who lived alone with her sons and tended nearby family shops.

The woman, Fatima Fadlallath Cheaitilly, was cited in a December 2011 Treasury report as a key associate in a criminal network of drug traffickers and money launderers. The family shops were fronts for money laundering, and around the time of the action, U.S. law enforcement sources believe Cheaitilly was dating Hezbollah financier Mohamad Zoubein El Khansa.

Ahmad said she had often spent time with Cheaitilly at parties and functions at the Colombian-Arab school that her children attended. “Never would you think that this woman, as fragile as she was, would be involved in something so monstrous,” she said. “When this came out and they named the people involved, we were left thinking ‘Wow, what happened there?’”

While Ahmad and many of her Sunni friends denounce Hezbollah, many of Maicao’s minority Shiite population are in favor of the organization´s political and military objectives in their homeland.

Lebanese descendant community members may support the group ideologically, while sympathizing money launderers and terrorism financiers funnel cash back to Lebanon to support the group financially.

Ali Yalili, 35, a member of the Shiite community in Maicao, said he believes they are unfairly targeted as financiers of terrorism.

“If you are Shiite, have money and your business is going well, they make your out to be a money launderer, Hezbollah supporter, terrorist and cause you problems,” Yalili said. “Here, no one comes to fight, to be a terrorist, or to kill anyone. People come in search of their daily bread to eat, to live.””

But Many Lebanese descendants also come to Maicao to launder drug money to the tune of millions of dollars per year, according to law enforcement sources. In December 2011, Treasury named five family groups of Lebanese descent and first generation Colombians whose laundering proceeds found their way back to Hezbollah.

The way it works is a money launderer today may work for 5-10 different drug trafficking groups. Those groups in turn pay taxes or fees to terrorist groups to operate in their territories, proliferating terrorism and violence in Colombia and the Middle East. Likewise, sympathizing launderers may make sizable voluntary donations to Hezbollah.

In June 2012, Treasury named former Maicao resident Mohammed Saleh, who is believed to be a leading fundraiser for Hezbollah in Maicao. A prominent Shiite businessman and former Hezbollah fighter, Saleh and his brother Kassem were implicated by the Treasury Department as terrorism financiers. Neighboring shopkeepers on Maicao´s Tenth Street said the two fled overnight after their names and businesses were made public. The brothers remain at large, reportedly hiding in neighboring Venezuela…

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Gulf “allies” ignore us and pay Al Qaeda

October 24, 2013

Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait refuse to listen to U.S. diplomatic entreaties to stop funding Al Qaeda affiliated rebels in Syria, according to reporting from the Washington Times.

Frequently since 9/11, officials from the Treasury Department’s Terrorism and Financial Intelligence (TFI) office have shuttled back and forth from the U.S. to the Persian Gulf to try to convince countries there to cooperate in blocking funds or making arrests of specific terrorist financiers.  TFI has usually trumpeted its own successes in the past, even to the point of exaggerating Gulf cooperativeness, but this time even TFI is admitting that no cooperation is to be found when it comes to financing Al Qaeda in Syria.

Officials quoted seem to be shrugging their shoulders and saying that all they can do is tell Gulf officials, “Look at what this person is doing.”  They claim interdicting the flow of money to jihadists is out of American control because the funds aren’t channeled through U.S. banks.

Forgive me, ladies and gentlemen, but the claim that we can’t do anything is a crock.  We could name the Saudi, Qatari, and Kuwaiti banks that serve as conduits between the fundraisers and the fighters as entities that support terrorism, just as we have done with Iranian banks that support Hezbollah or Iran’s nuclear program.

This is not a narrowly legalistic problem of the applicability of U.S. sanctioning authority.  This is a political and diplomatic failure of willingness to confront our so-called allies, and name them and shame them for spreading terrorism.

U.S. allies let funds flow to al Qaeda in Syria

By Guy Taylor

The Washington Times

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The United States has had limited success cutting off funding to the al Qaeda-linked fighters and foreign jihadists flowing into Syria — in part because of a lack of cooperation on the part of Middle Eastern allies, Intelligence and national security community sources say.

Officials say they are tracking the movements of funds from various wealthy individuals in the Persian Gulf, but the governments of key Gulf countries are reluctant to crack down.

“Unless the money is actually in the U.S. financial system, you have to point out to these governments where the money is going and try to work with them to make sure it goes to legitimate groups,” said one U.S. official who spoke with The Washington Times on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of intelligence related to tracking such money.

“The U.S. can’t shut down bank accounts in Kuwait or Qatar,” the official said. “We can tell them, ‘Look at what this person is doing.’”

The approach has worked with variable success over the past decade, during which U.S. authorities have worked closely with counterparts in such nations as Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia to choke off streams of cash to al Qaeda’s core leadership in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

But when it comes to stemming the flow of aid to Salafist and al Qaeda-linked groups inside Syria, the strategy has been less successful — suggesting authorities in the Gulf now may see American pressure for such action as less worthy than previous calls to block cash to al Qaeda.

“In some nations where they have had success in clamping down on terrorist funding for al Qaeda’s core, this is a source of funding that has not really been clamped down on,” the official said.

The extent to which that money is aiding the rise of extremists in Syria seemed to burst open last month when 11 Syrian rebel groups, including the Nusra Front — an organization U.S. officials link to al Qaeda — banded together in a public rejection of the more secular political opposition groups outside the country that are receiving aid from Washington.

By calling for a new government in Syria to be ruled by Islamic law, the newly formed coalition dealt a major blow to U.S.-led efforts to support a democratic alternative to embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Although the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) — another rebel group with al Qaeda ties in Syria — was left out of the coalition, analysts say, it, too, is growing dangerously in the war zone. As the extremist foothold has deepened, so have reports of abuses and war crimes carried out by opposition fighters.

A report released last week by Human Rights Watch said members of the Nusra Front and ISIS were among rebel fighters who killed some 190 unarmed civilians during an August offensive on villages perceived to be supporting the Assad government. The report said 67 of the civilians were slain at close range while trying to flee.

The bottom line is that the landscape of extremist groups among the opposition has grown increasingly complex over the past year, said Mouaz Moustafa, executive director of the Syrian Emergency Task Force, an advocacy arm of Syria’s more secular political opposition that lobbies in Washington for a greater U.S. role in the conflict.

“The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has increasing power and influence in places like Aleppo and Raqqa Province,” said Mr. Mustafa. “But at the same time, other Islamist battalions have coalesced and improved their organizational structures while rejecting both the ISIS and the more secular outside political coalition.”

He said that “all of these groups are getting assistance” and that the task of pinning down the precise source of the money is difficult. “That’s the million-dollar question,” he said.

When it comes to ISIS, said Mr. Moustafa, “you’re talking about al Qaeda’s network, and I would assume most of the aid and resources they’re getting comes directly from Iraq, where the system was already in place to raise money going back to the rise of al Qaeda in Iraq several years ago.”

Kuwait-Turkey connection

U.S. officials say that system has relied heavily on the activities of an Iran-based al Qaeda “facilitator” named Muhsin al-Fadhli.

A little-reported press release circulated by the U.S. Treasury Department last October described al-Fadhli as “a veteran al Qaeda operative” who provided “financial and material support” to al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab Zarqawi.

Zarqawi was known for orchestrating a series of gruesome bombings and beheadings in Iraq before U.S. forces killed him in 2006. But the activities of al-Fadhli’s network supposedly have carried forth — and have evolved toward tapping a reserve of Kuwait-based sympathizers to fund extremist groups fighting in Syria.

“In addition to providing funding for al Qaeda activities in Afghanistan and Pakistan, this network is working to move fighters and money through Turkey to support al Qaeda-affiliated elements in Syria,” according to the Treasury Department press release. “Al-Fadhli also is leveraging his extensive network of Kuwaiti jihadist donors to send money to Syria via Turkey.”

That extremist elements of Syria’s opposition are gaining strength appears to expose the limitations of the U.S. government to block the flow of such money — or at least to persuade partners in Kuwait and other Persian Gulf nations to do so.

Officials at the Kuwaiti Embassy in Washington did not respond to a request by The Times to comment for this article.

But an article published last month by Foreign Policy shed some light on the situation. In the article, William McCants, a former senior adviser in the State Department’s office of the coordinator for counterterrorism, wrote that “the Gulf monarchies have not been able or willing to stem the tide of private money their citizens are sending to the Salafi charities and popular committees.”

“Kuwait in particular has done little to stop it because it lacks an effective terror financing law and because it cannot afford politically to infuriate its already angry Salafi members of parliament,” wrote Mr. McCants. “Qatar and Saudi Arabia have tried to crack down on fundraising for the Salafi militias but their citizens just send their money to Kuwait.”

Political storm in Turkey

The rise of extremists among Syria’s rebels, meanwhile, has set off a political storm in Turkey, where the leadership of the nation’s main opposition party is accusing the government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of supporting al Qaeda-linked groups in the nearby war zone.

Read the rest of this entry ?

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Al-Nusra jihadists in Syria sanctioned by U.S.

December 11, 2012

The U.S. State Department listed al-Nusra Front as a foreign terrorist organization yesterday (h/t Twitter user Sal Imburgia ‏@salimb94).  A parallel designation by the Treasury Department will include a prohibition against business deals between Americans and al-Nusra and a freeze of al-Nusra assets in U.S. banks.

A BBC profile of the al-Nusra Front calls the group’s ideology “clearly jihadist,” and says that al-Nusra has claimed responsibility for “many of the bombings that have rocked Syria since the uprising began in March 2011.”

Additional reports have indicated a warm relationship between al-Nusra and Al Qaeda.

Given U.S. support for many groups fighting in the Syrian rebellion, the designation may present a schizophrenic approach to American foreign policy in Syria wherein certain Syrian rebels receive financial support and rebels that they work alongside with receive financial penalties.  McClatchy lays out several other complicating factors in the al-Nusra designation in a good report here.

Kenneth Rijock also weighed in prior to the the designation on what it would mean for U.S. banks with commercial relationships in Syria and the Palestinian territories:

Multiple reports of the imminent OFAC  designation of the Al-Nusra Front, a radical Sunni organisation fighting the Assad regime in Syria, should alert compliance officers whose clients are sending relief funds, and supplies, to Syrian Opposition groups. Its Arabic name is Jabhat Al-Nusra, and the approximate English translation is Front for the Protection of the People of the Levant.

One important detail: Al-Nusra, which has spewed forth anti-American and Anti-Israeli hatred, reportedly contains a fair number of Palestinians. Don’t get caught in an OFAC violation if your clients are in the midst of what you thought were contributions to Palestinian causes, but go straight to Al-Nusra. It has been reported that the OFAC action will take place around 12 December.

I would piggyback on Rijock by making the following suggestion to non-profits, NGOs, charities and their donors:  if you are involved with relief work in either Syria or the Palestinian territories, you should factor the risk of funding this Al Qaeda offshoot into your aid distribution plans.  Are making such donations so important to you that you would risk supporting an Al Qaeda takeover of Syria?

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U.S. names multi-million dollar Taliban hawaladar

November 28, 2012

In RadicalIslam.org’s interview with Money Jihad, we discussed how poorly the U.S. has handled the scourge of hawala, the traditional Islamic method of transferring money.

The Bush administration talked about hawala, but wasn’t able to accomplish much to stop the opaque money swapping method that is often used to fund terrorism.  The Obama administration has been worse, passing up a golden opportunity to seek a maximum penalty against the hawala dealer who funded the failed Times Square bomber.

The latest news that the Treasury Department has sanctioned a hawala business with branches in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran that has transferred millions of dollars for the Taliban is somewhat encouraging.  We’ve always known that these cases exist, but normally we don’t even hear about them because of diplomatic sensitivities with Pakistan.  The fact that the feds would go public with this information is a step in the right direction.

But in practical terms, the sanctions are largely symbolic.  As Treasury’s press release said, “As a result of today’s action, all property in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons in which Rahat Ltd, Mohammed Qasim, and Musa Kalim have an interest is blocked, and U.S. persons are prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.”

That is, unless Rahat maintains an account a U.S. bank, it is unlikely that any funds will be frozen as a result of this action.

As long as we have troops on the ground in Afghanistan, it would be somewhat more effective to treat the Afghan branch of Rahat Ltd as a military target:  raid the branch, detain and interrogate its employees, and confiscate its records.  There’s more intelligence to be gathered about the Taliban’s financials.

Here are the basics we know from Treasury:

Treasury Imposes Sanctions on a Hawala and Two Individuals Linked to the Taliban

11/20/2012
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of the Treasury today announced the designation of Rahat Ltd, a hawala, and two individuals pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13224. Rahat Ltd has branches in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran which have been used by the Taliban to facilitate their illicit financial activities. The Treasury Department is also designating the owner of Rahat Ltd, Mohammed Qasim, and the owner and manager of its Quetta, Pakistan branch, Musa Kalim.

Rahat Ltd has been used extensively by senior Taliban leadership to finance their violent activities. This includes facilitating millions of dollars of transactions to support the Taliban shadow governor for Helmand Province, United Nations Security Council 1988-Listed Naim Barich, who was also designated November 15, 2012 pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act for his extensive narcotics production and distribution activities.

“Today’s action demonstrates our continued efforts to target and disrupt financial activity linked to the Taliban’s use of hawalas,” said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen. “We will continue exposing these illicit networks and deprive the Taliban of their sources of funding no matter where they turn.”

As a result of today’s action, all property in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons in which Rahat Ltd, Mohammed Qasim, and Musa Kalim have an interest is blocked, and U.S. persons are prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.

Rahat Ltd

Rahat Ltd is a hawala that facilitates financial activities for the Taliban.  Taliban shadow governor for Helmand Province Barich provides funds through Rahat Ltd to subordinate Taliban commanders to plan and conduct operations in southern Afghanistan.  As of mid-2012, Barich had transferred money using the Quetta branch of Rahat Ltd.  As of early 2012, Barich had received millions of dollars through the Quetta branch of Rahat Ltd and had provided a senior Taliban commander with over $250,000 via Rahat Ltd.

Other senior Taliban figures regularly used Rahat Ltd to store and transfer hundreds of thousands of dollars.  As of early 2012, approximately $500,000 of Taliban funds had been placed in the Quetta branch of Rahat Ltd and, as of late 2011, a senior Taliban member arranged the transfer of over $100,000 through the same Rahat Ltd hawala.

Mohammed Qasim

Mohammed Qasim owns Rahat Ltd and, as of mid-2012, was a hawaladar for Taliban senior leadership.  As of mid-2011, Qasim used his hawalas in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran to facilitate Taliban financial transfers.  As of early 2011, Qasim was a financial assistant to Taliban shadow governor for Helmand Province Barich.  Additionally, in early 2012, Qasim helped to transport weapons and ammunition for the Taliban and, as of mid-2011, frequently smuggled weapons into Helmand Province for the Taliban.

Musa Kalim

Musa Kalim owns and runs the Quetta, Pakistan branch of Rahat Ltd, also known as the New Chagai Trading Company and the Musa Kalim Hawala.

As of late 2012, Taliban shadow governor for Helmand Province Barich had used Kalim to move and hold his finances.  As of late 2011, the bulk of Kalim’s hawala business consisted of transferring Taliban and smugglers’ funds.  Kalim also managed the transfer of funds from donors in the Gulf to support Taliban fighters in 2011…

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