Posts Tagged ‘UAE’

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Gulf charcoal purchases prop up al-Shabaab

July 7, 2014

Money Jihad has long reported on how al-Shabaab profits from Somalia’s charcoal smuggling business, particularly by charging a checkpoint tax authorized by Islamic law. A new report from the United Nations Environmental Programme and Interpol confirms that this activity is ongoing despite a UN ban against Somali charcoal exports, saying that “Al Shabaab retains about one third of the [charcoal] income, which alone constitutes about USD 38–56 million” annually.

A map in the report shows a key al-Shabaab tax checkpoint at Buulo Xaaji, main points of embarkation from Kismayo and Barawe, major delivery locations at Jizan (Saudi Arabia), Dubai and Sharjah (UAE), and Khasab (Oman), with additional deliveries in Egypt, Yemen, and Kuwait.

Somali charcoal exports

In addition to “normal” smuggling of charcoal from Somalia to the Gulf states, it is Money Jihad’s belief that rampant trade-based money laundering is occurring between al-Shabaab and these states in which wealthy Arabs are transferring funds to al-Shabaab through over-invoicing for charcoal purchased. In other words, terror financiers in the UAE and Saudi Arabia are intentionally overpaying for Somali charcoal as a means of funding al-Shabaab without simple detection. The Gulf states are doing this to pursue larger strategic interests in Africa.

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Seven habits of highly effective kingpins

May 27, 2014

Criminal and terrorist groups are highly interconnected according to new analysis of data by West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center. The conventional wisdom was that criminals worry that working with terrorists may draw unwanted scrutiny from their governments, and they are only inclined to cooperate only in resource-poor environments where it is necessary to survive. But the CTC finds that transnational traffickers and criminals appear to be more than willing to partner with terrorists, and that they benefit from these relationships in a wide variety of environments.

The full report can be read here. It is very thorough (89 pages) and includes academic language and models. Here are a just a few of the salient points from the study about members of the global underworld that may be of interest to practitioners and analysts outside of academia:

  1. Interconnected: 98 percent of the individuals in the global illicit marketplace are within two degrees of separation of each other.
  2. International: One in three individuals in the network have international relationships.
  3. Distributed power: Unlike typical hub-and-spoke networks where 80 percent of the connections rely on 20 percent of the actors involved, the global illicit network is somewhat less dependent on a small number of powerful actors/kingpins. Twenty percent of participants are responsible for only 65 percent of underworld connections. This diffuse hub-and-spoke model makes the network tougher for law enforcement to disrupt.
  4. Willingness to work with terrorists: “Individuals involved in other illicit activities link to terrorists 35 percent of the time” (p. 43). Terrorists often serve as “boundary spanners,” that link and form introductions between disparate groups such as drug traffickers, arms dealers, and organized crime.
  5. Frequent bilateral links with the United Arab Emirates: The top two bilateral connections in the criminal underworld–the U.S. and Colombia and the U.S. and Mexico–are probably unsurprising to Americans. The third most prevalent bilateral connections are between India and the U.A.E., and the sixth most common are between Pakistan and the U.A.E.
  6. Organized crime, not just terrorism, benefits from state sponsorship. We know that state sponsorship of terrorism exists, but for some reason we erroneously assume that state sponsorship of crime does not. The evidence from North Korea, Russia, the Balkans, and Pakistan indicates that criminals can carry out national interests—a phenomenon deserving further study.
  7. Convergence is not driven by poverty. Terrorists and criminals are drawn together in a variety of environments, not just in countries where there are little money or resources. The evidence indicates that the opposite is often true—that criminal masterminds prefer climates where there is some level of predictability and economic development, such as Monzer al-Kassar operating in Spain and Dawood Ibrahim in Dubai. Focusing only on failed states could be a red herring.

Acknowledgment: Thanks to Twitter user @El_Grillo1 for sending in a link to the CTC study.

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The mystery of a $10 million terror transfer

April 25, 2014

Thirty-four billion Pakistani rupees (approx. 10.4 million USD) have been transferred to major cities in Pakistan near the border of Afghanistan over the past two years; the beneficiaries of the transfers may have included terrorist groups. The transfers were revealed by Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency earlier this year to the Express Tribune:

Funding terrorism: Illegal cash flows may be aiding terrorists

KARACHI:  Terrorist groups in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and Balochistan have been receiving billions of rupees each month through banking channels and money exchange companies, sources in Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) have revealed.

These companies in collusion with some bankers have been transferring huge amounts to unnamed bank accounts in Quetta and Peshawar. The FIA has recently found evidence of transfer of billions of rupees to the two cities in the last few months.

According to sources, the FIA made these discoveries during its investigations into the multibillion rupee Trade Development Authority Pakistan (TDAP) scam.

Ironically, the Financial Monitoring Unit (FMU) and other institutions, whose task is to curb the illegal business of hundi and hawala, are completely unaware of these dubious transactions, made right under their nose.

If the law enforcers can trace the people receiving billions of rupees through unnamed accounts in Peshawar and Quetta, they will possibly be able to unearth terrorist activities funded by this money…

The Business Recorder provided more details a few weeks ago, reporting that TDAP and commerce ministry officials set up shell companies that claimed trade subsidies known as “general freight subsidies” or “freight subsidies” for the export of “live seafood.” The subsidy checks were then deposited in 10 banks which transferred the $10 million over a 30 month period. Ninety percent of the money obtained through bogus trade subsidy claims was later withdrawn in cash, and some money was subsequently sent to banks in the United Arab Emirates and the West.

The FIA has urged the State Bank of Pakistan to carry out a forensic audit into the transfers.  Yeah, might be a good idea, fellas.

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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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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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Haqqani financier with deep Gulf ties killed

November 24, 2013

The chief money man behind the Haqqani network, Nasiruddin Haqqani, has been shot dead.  He has been under U.S. sanctions since 2010; at the time the Treasury Department said, “From at least 2005 to 2009, Nasiruddin Haqqani collected funds for the Haqqani Network, including during a 2008 fundraising trip to a Gulf state and during regular travel to the (UAE) in 2007. As of mid-2007, Haqqani reportedly received funding from ­donations from the Gulf region, drug trafficking, and payments from al-Qa’ida. In 2004, he traveled to Saudi Arabia with a Taliban associate to raise funds for the Taliban.”

Nasiruddin Haqqani used to live next door to the headquarters of ISI, the Pakistani spy agency, with whom he collaborated.

The BBC reports:

… As the group’s main fundraiser, Nasiruddin frequently travelled to the oil-rich sheikhdoms of the Middle East to solicit donations.

He represented the Haqqani network in last year’s efforts to set up a Taliban office in Doha for peace talks with the United States.

He was also the group’s main contact person for pro-Taliban elements in Pakistan, as well as its representative with the Afghan Taliban.

‘Well-dressed networker’

Unlike his father and many of his brothers, Nasiruddin Haqqani and two of his uncles did not live in Miran Shah in North Waziristan. He chose to base himself near Islamabad, from where he made his many journeys abroad to secure funds.

Some sources said he had major business interests in the Gulf, including a transport company.

Nasiruddin is not thought to have been publicly photographed.

Those who have met him describe a tall, educated, well-dressed man who travelled in expensive cars and networked an extensive list of contacts all the time.

They say his appearance gave no clue to his militant connections. His code name was “the doctor”, possibly because of a degree that he had studied for.

His death will be a major blow to the Haqqanis, who will need to find someone else to spearhead their efforts to secure financing…

Shouldn’t be too hard for the ISI to anoint somebody else.

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Enforcement action news: recommended reading

October 30, 2013
  • A company in the United Arab Emirates that exported U.S. merchandise to Iran has been caught, fined, and slammed… more>>
  • A new ruling says that the Lebanese bank that funded Hezbollah through an account in New York can be sued by terror victims… more>>
  • The UN casually mentions that the latest addition to their sanctions list may have been involved in the attack in Benghazimore>>
  • Sanctions against Iran have done more damage to the Islamic Republic than anything since its war against Iraq, says a former spymaster… more>>

 

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Why jihadists ignore the ivory trade ban

October 6, 2013

It should not surprise us that terrorists who have no respect for human life have even less respect for the lives of animals, much less critically endangered ones.

A recent assessment of the Elephant Action League is that as much as 40 percent of al-Shabaab’s revenues come from the illegal trade in ivory (h/t Sal), which is driving rhinos and elephants closer toward extinction.

Why does al-Shabaab believe that it is permissible to profit from this dreadful business?  It could be purely financial (like al-Shabaab’s hyena meat sales), but it’s worth examining how al-Shabaab’s leaders would justify behavior which, on its face, may appear to contradict passages of the Koran about treating animals gently.

One consideration is that whatever protections to animals that may be afforded under Islamic law can also be overridden in the in larger interests of profit and jihad—two topics which are the focus of far more Koranic verses than animal rights.

The Koran declares, “Allah hath allowed trade” (2:275), and sharia law provides protection to Muslim traders engaged in commerce.  The prominent Islamic philosopher Imran Hosein says “we stand for a free and a fair market around the world.”  Sanctions and embargos have been called “un-Islamic,” and has been suggested that Islam generally endorses free trade without restrictions on any merchandise other than goods which are specifically declared halal such as pork and wine.

Secondly, the Islamist ivory purveyors are unlikely to accept the concept of limiting their own lucrative trade to protect what they perceive to be abstract ecological interests imposed by international, secular law.  Groups such as al-Shabaab may also reason, as have many other jihadists and their imams, that if the proceeds of illegal activity are used in the furtherance of Islam, then it is ultimately justifiable under Islamic law.

A final challenge to limiting the illegal wildlife trade is that terrorists and smugglers in Africa are often working for or with businessmen in Dubai.  Although it is a signatory to the international convention against the international trade in endangered species, the UAE is a major enabler and broker for the exploitation of Africa’s natural resources, and is a hub for the global black market.

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Bookies and athletes named in terrorism-linked gambling ring

June 10, 2013
Spot-fixing scandal update

Cricket bowler and defendant S. Sreesanth

In what is being called a “sensational twist,” three cricket players including former Rajasthan Royal bowler Shanthakumaran Sreesanth have been charged in a match fixing conspiracy reporting to Dawood Ibrahim, the international terror financier and mastermind of the 1993 Mumbai bombings that killed hundreds of civilians.  The direct ties between the athletes and Dawood were previously unknown.

Rediff News notes that, Dawood was “No. 3 on the Forbes’ World’s Top 10 most dreaded criminals list of 2011.”  Seventeen other cricketers have been arrested, although their ties Dawood are less clear at this point.  Sreesanth and his conspirators will be prosecuted under India’s laws against organized crime.

IPL spot-fixing: Dawood, Chhota Shakeel are suspects, say sources

CNN-IBN | Updated Jun 04

New Delhi: Sources in the Delhi Police on Tuesday said that underworld don Dawood Ibrahim and his close aide Chhota Shakeel are suspects in the IPL spot-fixing case.

In a sensational twist to the scandal, Delhi Police said that Sreesanth and two players were acting at the “command” of the underworld don and his aide, among India’s most wanted, as it invoked the stringent MCOCA against 23 accused in the case.

Police claimed it has “concrete” evidence like intercepted telephonic conversations to link Sreesanth and some others with D-company.

Under MCOCA, the accused face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment along with fine of Rs five lakh. Police’s disclosure came in a court which extended till June 18 the judicial custody of Sreesanth and 22 others against whom Maharasthra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) was invoked. A total of 26 people have been arrested by Delhi Police since May 16 in the case.

“Since the accused persons were acting on command of people based abroad like Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar and Chhota Shakeel who have a continuous past record of organised crimes, provisions of MCOCA have been invoked against the accused,” police told Additional Sessions Judge Sanjiv Jain.

The court, in its order, referred to the approval granted by Joint Commissioner of Police Special Cell for invoking section 3 and 4 of MCOCA and also a report citing reasons for the same.

“It has been stated that the approval for invoking MCOCA has been accorded by Joint CP (Special Cell) on the premise that the arrested persons/accused through extensive use of electronic and via media were in communication with each other and with their other associates, who are still absconding, including those associates who are based abroad.

“The illegal organised betting syndicate in India is being controlled by persons based abroad”…

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Dawood henchman oversees illicit sports betting

May 28, 2013

Authorities add spot fixing to list of crimes by international terror financier

The current sports gambling scandal in India over fixed cricket matches may trace back to international terror financier Dawood Ibrahim and his D-Gang syndicate, according to sources in the Delhi police department.

Sunil Dubai, a Dawood lieutenant and bookie kingpin, oversees the spot fixing from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, but travels frequently to Karachi, Pakistan, and has family in London.

Dawood Ibrahim was the mastermind and financier of the 1993 Mumbai bombings that killed 257 people.

From the sports pages of the Times of India:

Spot-fixing in IPL: Dawood’s man in Dubai mastermind of betting racket

C Unnikrishnan & Raj Shekhar, TNN May 17, 2013

MUMBAI/NEW DELHI: The mastermind of the cricket betting syndicate is said to be a Dubai-based Dawood Ibrahim man named Sunil Ramchandani alias Sunil Dubai while the principal bookie referred to as ‘Jupiter’ in phone intercepts is a person called Chandresh. He is reportedly close to several politicians, builders and police officers.

“The hawala route in the payout of money indicates links to Dawood gang,” said a Delhi Police officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “The increase in the seizure of ‘dabba phones’ – phones on which betting rates are taken from Dubai – in recent days from betting syndicates seem to confirm that Dawood’s men control much of this cash-spinning industry running into thousands of crores.”

While Delhi Police commissioner Neeraj Kumar didn’t elaborate on the Dubai-Karachi connection, terming the link as that of the ‘Mumbai underworld’ whose kingpin lives abroad, sources in the special cell said that a team was probing Dawood’s connection with the bookies and joining the dots using tip-offs gathered.

“We’re trying to figure out whether the Dubai number used by the bookie kingpin actually originated in Dubai or somewhere else. The wires of this operation extend to Karachi, Dubai, Jaipur, Kolkata and Ahmedabad,” said a Delhi cop, adding that the teams are in most of these places for further investigations.

Intelligence sources said Sunil Dubai started his operations in Mumbai about 20 years ago before shifting base to Dubai. “He used to shuttle between Dubai and Mumbai to coordinate operations till a few years ago,” said a senior Mumbai police officer. Mumbai police issued a look-out notice after his name cropped up in betting cases involving a number of bookies. From Dubai, Sunil applied for anticipatory bail in a Mumbai court, but his plea was rejected last month.

Sunil took over the betting business after Sharad Shetty, also a Dawood man, was assassinated by rival gangster Chhota Rajan’s men in Dubai 10 years ago. Sunil’s family is believed to be in London. He frequently travels to Karachi, where Dawood and his right hand man Chhota Shakeel are based. Sources in the police said he heads a business worth over Rs 500 crore spread across Mumbai, Delhi, Dubai and Karachi.

It is learnt that a few years ago, he bought most of an apartment building near Mantralaya, the Maharashtra government headquarters.

“The five-storey building was initially occupied by Indian Navy officials. He bought most of the flats except one owned by the state government. He is trying to capture that too. He intends to redevelop it once he manages to buy the last flat,” said a person with knowledge of the deal.

Several Mumbai bookies owe their allegiance to him. “He decides the betting rate and the others follow it. Cricket fixing cannot happen without his go-ahead,” said sources.

As for Jupiter/Chandresh, sources said he shifted his base to Delhi some time ago after Mumbai police began cracking down on bookies. He had operated from Mumbai along with Ahmedabad-based Naresh Majethia for close to 15 years ago. The police are said to be gathering more information on Chandresh’s operations here.

It all began with the interception of calls between Dubai and Karachi that had alarmed the special cell who mistook them first as “coded exchange between terrorists”. But, further interceptions led to the unraveling of connections between IPL players and bookies.

The cops will now question Ramesh Vyas, a bookie arrested by the Mumbai police on Tuesday, who was the link between Indian and Pakistani ‘bookies’ and had exchanged around 30 calls to Pakistan, an officer said.

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Clandestine finance news: recommended reading

May 16, 2013
  • It took Kuwait 12 years after 9/11 to outlaw the financing of terrorism. That was still faster than Sweden…  more>>
  • A Dubai subsidiary illegally transfers software to Syria, and incurs the second biggest fine in the history of export controlmore>>
  • Bitcoin‘s sales pitch was based on freedom from regulation. Not so fast, say the feds… more>>

 

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