Posts Tagged ‘U.K.’

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HSBC closes accounts: 2 Islamic nonprofits and 1 mosque

August 12, 2014

HSBC has closed the accounts of the Islamic charity Ummah Welfare Trust (UWT), the Finsbury Park Mosque in north London, and an Islamic advocacy group called the Cordoba Foundation. The closures are part of the British bank’s effort to improve compliance with U.S. and British regulations and after being heavily criticized and fined in 2012 for being too lax about the customers and correspondent banks it chose to do business with.

UWT’s accounts were closed by Barclays in 2009. A student group has reported that UWT has conducted projects together with the Al-Salah Islamic Association, a Hamas front. The Finsbury Park Mosque was formerly pastored by hate preacher and jihadist Abu Hamza. The Cordoba Foundation advocates for Palestinian causes, invited a guest to speak from the radical group Hizb-ut-Tahrir, and is run by a member of Britain’s Muslim Brotherhood.

Alex Brummer, city editor of the Daily Mail, offers this insightful analysis of HSBC’s move:

The notion that HSBC is closing down the bank accounts of Muslim groups and charities because of some kind of Islamophobia could not be more wide of the mark.

Britain’s biggest and most international bank is engaged in a determined effort to clean up its reputation and preserve its banking licenses in the United States after settling charges of money laundering and sanctions busting brought by the US Justice Department.

A coruscating 2012 report by the powerful Senate sub-Committee on Investigations found that HSBC had exposed the US ‘financial system to a wide array of money laundering, drug trafficking, and terrorist financing risks due to poor anti-laundering controls’.

The bank subsequently agreed to pay £1.12billion ($1.9billion) in fines to settle the claims and was given a five year probationary period to clean up its act.

Under the chairmanship of the redoubtable Scotsman Douglas Flint, who has been in charge of HSBC since 2010, it has rigorously sought to eliminate the risks of further money laundering charges that might put in danger its American banking licenses.

It has ruthlessly closed down branches, cancelled relationships with overseas banks and shut down the accounts of customers that might conceivably be regarded as risky because of links to money laundering, sanctions busting or potential terrorist activities.

In the troubled Middle East alone, it has doubled the number of compliance officers—internal enforcers—to 3,500 over the two years since it reached a settlement with the American authorities…

Improving the bank’s standards has been hugely expensive, with the global cost of the internal enforcement operation climbing to £296million ($500 million) a year…

Among the relationships that HSBC has severed, as it has gone about its task, is that with the Vatican Bank, recently renamed the Institute for the Works of Religion, because of its past association with money laundering. Such a move involving a prominent Roman Catholic institution strongly suggests Muslim causes and accounts have not been singled out as HSBC seeks to rebuild its reputation in Washington…

If HSBC could be accused of anything it is of being over-cautious in its dealings with the authorities and its elimination of potentially risky clients.

Thanks to Rushette for sending in the news.

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UK: 3 more arrests in front charity terror case

May 15, 2014

Three more middlemen in the financial pipeline from Britain to Syrian terrorists have been arrested in an ongoing investigation. Four charities, which likely include Aid Convoy (an Islamist front charity), have been cited in the probe, and a total of 12 men have been detained for their involvement.

News reports are referring to this terrorist financing case as “fraud,” although no evidence has yet been made public that anybody has been defrauded. It is possible that the donors, the leadership of the charities involved, and their beneficiaries in Syria all knew that the money was intended to fund violent activities against Bashar al-Assad and his supporters.

The website ThirdSector has a few more details on the latest arrests here: “Three more arrested for alleged charity fraud with links to terrorism in Syria.”

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Charity watchdog: Islamism poses deadlier threat

May 2, 2014

U.K.’s top charity regulator says that Muslim extremism poses the deadliest threat to the British nonprofit sector.  Although it has taken Charity Commission chief William Shawcross two years to come to that conclusion, it’s better late than never.  Shawcross is focused on the threat and the unknowns associated with the transfer of funds from Islamic charities in Great Britain to Syria and other conflict zones where al-Qaeda groups are ascendant.  He’d be well-served by keeping his eye on the home front too.

The Charity Commission has a poor record of enforcement against front charities that funnel money to terrorist groups.  A 2013 audit revealed that the Charity Commission is understaffed, passive, and unfit for duty.

From the BBC on Apr. 19:

Charity Commission warns of Islamic extremism threat

Chairman William Shawcross warned that while the issue is not currently widespread, it is growing.

Mr Shawcross told the Sunday Times the regulator is taking action against charities sending money to various groups in Syria.

He has asked the prime minister for measures to stop those with terrorism convictions from setting up charities.

Currently, those convicted of money laundering or terrorism are not automatically barred from doing so, or from becoming a trustee.

Mr Shawcross said: “It is ludicrous that people with convictions for terrorist offences are not automatically disqualified from serving as charity trustees.”

The regulator is currently investigating a number of charities raising funds for causes in Syria.

Mr Shawcross advised that agencies had to be vigilant.

“I’m sure that in places like Syria and Somalia it is very, very difficult for charities always to know what the end use of their aid is, but they’ve got to be particularly vigilant,” he said.

“The problem of Islamist extremism and charities… is not the most widespread problem we face in terms of abuse of charities, but is potentially the most deadly.

“And it is, alas, growing”…

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British Hamas donors active now in Syria

April 15, 2014

Three Islamic charities based in the U.K. who have funded projects administered by a Hamas “charitable” have also become involved with a radical Syrian aid convoy, according to a new report. The UK Charity Commission is proving itself, as usual, to be asleep at the switch with respect to such charities that are exploiting Britain as a financial base to fund jihad around the world.

Special thanks to Ayre for sending in this report from Stand for Peace:

Three UK charities fund Hamas charitable front

Three UK charities involved with Syrian ‘aid convoy’ efforts – Children in Deen, the Abu Faisal Trust and One Nation – are funding projects in Gaza run by the Al-Falah Benevolent Society (a.k.a. Al-Falah Society or Al-Falah Charitable Society). The Al-Falah Society is  one of “Hamas’s charitable societies”, according to the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center.

The OPEC Fund for International Development notes that it is funded by “institutions in the Arab, Islamic and international world who believe in the right of the Palestinian people to liberate their land”. It is run by Ramadan Tamboura (aka Ramadan Tanbura), who Ha’aretz newspaper reports is “a well-known Hamas figure”.

One Nation is part of the Aid for Syria convoy, which, as Stand for Peace has previously uncovered, is involved with a number of key extremist preachers in the UK. Aid for Syria convoys include trucks named after the convicted terrorist Aafia Siddiqui…

Read the rest at Stand for Peace here.

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Front charity news: recommended reading

March 27, 2014
  • The Shakhsiyah Foundation receives £70,000 a year in taxpayer money even though Prime Minister Cameron called it a front charity for extremism… more>>
  • Two would-be jihadists from North Carolina intended to use charity as a cover story for their mission overseas… more>>
  • The Turkish “charity” IHH funds and supports Hamas, but has yet to be designated as a terrorist organization by the Obama administration… more>>
  • İMKANDER, another Turkish charity, has taken to the streets in a massive rally to eulogize Doku Umarov, the terror chief of the Islamic Caucasus Emirate (h/t Ayre)… more>>
  • A Dutch money launderer has signed his own death warrant by stealing $35,000 from a Hamas front charity… more>>

 

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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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Terror funding news: recommended reading

March 6, 2014

Thanks to Gisele, Sal, El Grillo and all those who sent in tips.

  • Turkey has become a principal financial hub for terrorists under the leadership of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan,” writes Adam Kredo… more>>
  • Cultural property like art and antiquities are susceptible to exploitation in money laundering and terror finance schemes, but federal law doesn’t quite make the connection. Rick St. Hilaire explains… more>>
  • British sanctions target Pakistani jihad financiers and millionaire terrorist Dawood Ibrahimmore>>
  • Ten thousand dollars in farm subsidies have gone to a terror funding co-conspirator that grows no crops… more>>
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“Charity worker” dies while driving truckload of bombs for al-Nusra

February 25, 2014

A British Muslim who raised £140,000 from supporters in England killed himself in Syria while driving a truck full of explosives into an Aleppo prison. The flags of al-Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, were found on the scene.

British police are rightly concerned that other Britons fighting in Syria will return to the U.K. to continue their jihad.  The authorities would do well to be concerned also about the use of “charitable” fundraisers in Britain to finance the purchase of weapons and explosives for the battlefronts of the Middle East.

From the Daily Mail on Feb. 13 (with a hat tip to Vlad Tepes):

Are Syria charities a front for Jihadists? Fears convoys in the country are being used to help militants after thousands in cash is seized

  • Security services fear the relief effort is being hijacked by radical Islamists
  • British suicide bomber Abdul Waheed Majeed travelled to Syria under the banner of carrying out charitable work
  • 41-year-old died when he drove a dumper truck full of explosives into the gates of Aleppo prison last week
  • He was revealed as a former driver for hate cleric Omar Bakri
  • Met Police Commissioner ‘deeply concerned’ at threat posed by British jihadists returning from the war zone after being radicalised there

By Chris Greenwood and Emine Sinmaz and Inderdeep Bains

Charity aid convoys are at the centre of a counter terrorism investigation over fears they are supporting Al-Qaeda militants in Syria.

Tens of thousands of pounds in cash has already been seized from relief vehicles travelling from Britain to the war-torn state.

Security services fear the huge relief effort is being hijacked by radical Islamists determined to support networks of violent jihadists.

Yesterday Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said he remains deeply concerned at the threat posed by returning British jihadists.

‘We have not changed the policy,’ he said. ‘We are concerned about the number of British people going to Syria for humanitarian reasons or to get involved in the war that is happening.

‘There are a few hundred people going out there. They may be injured or killed, but our biggest worry is when they return they are radicalised, they may be militarised, they may have a network of people that train them to use weapons.’

British Home Counties suicide bomber Abdul Waheed Majeed, 41, was among those who travelled to Syria under the banner of charitable work.

He joined an aid convoy after his Crawley mosque raised more than £140,000 to help refugees in just a few months.

Volunteers travelled the 2,000 mile journey in a fleet of old ambulances loaded with supplies, including food, bedding and medical equipment.

But Majeed left them to kill himself by driving an armoured dumper lorry laden with explosives into the gates of Aleppo prison last week.

The vehicle was draped in the flags of Jabhat al-Nusra, an extremist faction aligned to al-Qaeda and banned in Britain.

Further details of how the father-of-three was radicalised emerged yesterday as hate preacher Omar Bakri revealed he was a close aide.

The cleric, barred from Britain almost nine years ago, said Majeed was a key member of his banned organisation Al-Muhajiroun.

Bakri said he worked as his driver between his North London home and Crawley, where he nurtured a power base of militant supporters…

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Hawala used to launder £20 million in England

January 26, 2014

A British trial has revealed that criminal gangs have been laundering drug money by sending it through hawala and conventional banking channels from England to a hawala dealer overseas to send back to the gangsters in the U.K.

Despite the seriousness of the underlying crime, four of the men involved in the scheme have received light sentences ranging from three years in prison to supervised release with no prison time.  The sentencing is reminiscent of that of New York hawala dealer Faisal Shahzad, who funded the failed Times Square bomber and got off with probation.

Meanwhile, law enforcement and financial regulators continue to make marginal or piecemeal recommendations for how to protect financial markets and the public from the inherent risk of hawala transactions.  One simple idea would be to impose tougher penalties and longer sentences for hawala crimes.

From the Liverpool Echo on Jan. 17 (h/t Arun):

Gang who laundered more than £20m using ancient Islamic system jailed

Two Liverpool men part of four man gang

Two Liverpool men who helped launder more than £20m of drugs money through banks were spared prison.

The money is believed to have been laundered using legitimate bank accounts and an ancient  Islamic money lending system.

Kamran Butt and Instar Ahmed, from Greater Manchester and Liverpool men Steven McKenna and Sean Moore were put under surveillance by police in two undercover operations.

But officers found they were linked when Butt and Ahmed were seen depositing money into  the same bank accounts.

The money was transferred to the defendants, who were recruited by operatives in the Middle East, using the ‘Hawala’ system – an informal Islamic way of lending money based on honour agreements and third-party lenders.

A fifth man, named in court as ‘Akhtar’, was also heavily involved – but was deported to  Pakistan in 2012 and has not been traced since.

Watched by undercover police, Akhtar and Ahmed were seen depositing huge sums of money  at banks in Chorlton, Longsight and Manchester city centre.

The two men would travel to branches of Lloyds, HSBC and Halifax together but then pretend  not to know each other once inside.

Ahmed also worked in partnership with others in the gang.

Manchester Crown Court heard how on Monday, August 22, 2011, police intercepted Ahmed and McKenna and seized three rucksacks stuffed with more than £200,000 in cash.

On another occasion, Moore was seen with Butt in his Mercedes car.

Butt was stopped and a bag was seized, which was found to contain about £120,000 in cash.

His Stretford home was then searched and a further £10,000 was seized.Cash receipts in vehicles traced to the four men showed they were paying in anywhere from £500 to £10,000 a time.All the money is believed to have come from criminal gangs, mainly through drug sales.

The criminal cash was given to a Hawala money lender abroad who then transferred the  money to a Hawala lender in the UK and gave them a password.

This password was then passed onto one of the defendants allowing them to collect the cash.

They then paid the money into bank accounts in Manchester which the criminals had access to.

The court heard the four defendants were the bottom of the chain – below controllers and then  co-ordinators, working as collectors to receive the money, deliver it and pay it into various bank accounts in the UK.

After being caught, all four defendants pleaded guilty – Moore to two charges of money  laundering and Butt, McKenna and Ahmed to one charge of money laundering each.

Butt, of Great Stone Road, Stretford, was believed to be behind £12m in laundered cash, and  was sentenced to three years and six months.

Ahmed, of Kelstern Square, Rusholme, who is believed to have laundered £10m also received  a sentence of three years, six months.

Moore, of Kingfisher Grove, Liverpool, and McKenna, of Maley Street, Liverpool, both received  14 month sentences suspended for 12 months and 12 month supervision orders.

Moore was ordered to carry out 108 hours unpaid work and McKenna 150 hours…

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Covert finance news: suggested reading

January 2, 2014
  • Considering that Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. fund al-Nusra Front, which other chapters of Al Qaeda are they financing?more>>
  • The U.S. and British pause in arming the rebels hasn’t deterred Turkey’s gunrunning program to Syria. They’ve just dropped off almost 50 tons of weapons across the border… more>>
  • How an Al Qaeda acolyte used a stun gun on the streets of London to mug and fund his personal jihad to Syria… more>>
  • The risks of banking and doing business deals in Turkey has grown too great… more>>

 

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Brits push UN to ban ransom payments (again)

December 17, 2013

This time we really mean it!

Not sure what this proposed resolution will accomplish since paying ransoms to terrorists already violates U.N. Resolution 1904.  Maybe the proposal would actually give teeth to 1904, but the text of the proposed resolution does not appear to be available online from either the British foreign office or the U.N.

But at least they’re drawing attention to the phenomenon which enriches terrorist groups and puts upward pressure on the size of ransoms demanded globally.  From the Associated Press on Dec. 4:

UN urged to end paying ransom to terrorists

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Britain is urging the U.N. Security Council to adopt a resolution calling on all countries not to pay ransom to kidnappers who use the money to finance terrorist groups.

Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said Wednesday his government estimates that over the last three years more than $70 million has been provided to al-Qaida and other terrorist groups from ransom paid to kidnappers.

Lyall Grant said he circulated a draft resolution to council members Tuesday calling on the 193 U.N. member states “to prevent terrorists from benefiting directly or indirectly from ransom payments.”

A U.N. resolution adopted weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States already bans all countries from financing terrorism.

But Lyall Grant said the proposed new resolution highlights “the increasing threat” from kidnapping for ransom to benefit terrorists.

“We want to make it much more difficult for terrorists to benefit from this sort of financing,” he said.

Lyall Grant said he hopes the Security Council will approve the resolution this month, with support from all 15 members…

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