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Caucasus jihadists seek off-grid donations

May 26, 2015

Islamic State supporters from the North Caucasus are using Russian-language social media and a digital wallet service called QIWI to raise money to “fight against the disbelievers.” Use of the relatively anonymous QIWI service helps avoid monitoring and reporting of suspicious activity.

Thanks to El Cid, El Grillo, and Moscow Ghost for sending in this May 17 report from Radio Free Europe:

IS Militants Use Popular Russian Web Payment System To Raise Cash

A group of Islamic State (IS) militants from Russia’s North Caucasus region are using the popular Russian QIWI wallet electronic payment system to raise money online.

The group’s use of the QIWI wallet sheds light on how individual factions within IS carry out their own fundraising and outreach, and shows that this particular group has managed to raise cash openly using mainstream resources in Russia even though Moscow has banned IS and donating money to it illegal.

The militants involved in the fundraising are doing so through an unofficial Russian-language IS media activist group, ShamToday, which mostly comprises people from the North Caucasus who are with IS in Syria and Iraq…

Read the rest of RFE’s detailed report here.

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Britain bans ransom payments by insurance companies to terrorist groups

May 25, 2015

Earlier this year, Parliament passed a measure that prohibits insurance companies from paying ransoms to terrorists and provides for penalties if they do. The bill was debated in January, but it was not clear to Money Jihad at the time that the bill actually passed. The reliable Tom Keatinge has let us know that, yes, the bill has been enacted.

For more background on the law, check out Foreign Policy’s report on the subject from Jan. 8.

British legislators are considering a new bill that takes aim at a small, secretive niche in the insurance industry that deals with kidnapping and ransom, the latest money spinner for terrorists.

The new counterterrorism bill, proposed in November and being debated this week in the House of Commons, gives the British government broad powers to address new terrorist threats posed by the rise of the Islamic State.

One of the most controversial provisions would give ministers the ability to block British citizens suspected of fighting for terrorists from returning to the United Kingdom. Another section would require universities to limit the number of “extremist” speakers they host on campus.

But one part of the proposed bill that has gotten less attention would also make it a crime for British insurance companies to reimburse families or companies that pay a ransom to a terrorist in order to secure the release of a hostage. Critics argue that the provision is misguided, that it will do little to stem the flow of money to terrorists, and that it could disrupt the thriving industry of “kidnap and ransom” insurers and negotiators who successfully get people out of hostage situations.

Companies buy this insurance for employees working overseas who are in danger of being taken captive by terrorists, militants, or criminals. If that happens, the insurer connects the company to negotiators to help executives or families make a deal with kidnappers, send payment, and get the hostage back.

Kidnapping and ransom policies have come under scrutiny recently as British and U.S. counterterrorism officials have taken a stronger stance against paying ransoms to terrorists in order to starve Islamist militants of an important new source of funding. The Islamic State has used kidnapping for ransom to underwrite its gory campaigns in Syria and Iraq. A United Nations report in October estimated that the Islamic State had received $35 million to $45 million in ransom payments in the past year.

U.S. officials have long argued that making ransom payments encourages more kidnapping (though that hasn’t stopped Washington from acquiescing to ransom payments). The U.N. passed a resolution in January 2014 to discourage countries from meeting ransom demands, but a New York Times investigation published in July revealed that many European countries have been covertly making payments…

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Hezbollah fortunes expand in South America

May 24, 2015

Hezbollah’s multimillion dollar business in Latin America isn’t shrinking. According to French intelligence sources who leaked the information to Argentinian media, Hezbollah’s empire makes $60 to $100 million a year. Breitbart covers the coverage (h/t El Grillo):

Report: Hezbollah Rakes in Up to $100 Million Annually from Latin America

A new blockbuster report in Argentine news outlet Infobae claims that Hezbollah generates between $60 to $100 million dollars a year in illegal activities in Latin America, particularly in the Tri-Border area uniting Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil. The piece echoes years of reporting warning that the Lebanese Shiite terrorist group has expanded its influence in the region.

Infobae reports that the astronomical sum was revealed to them by “sources within French intelligence,” who calculated this based on the numerous businesses that Hezbollah members are involved in throughout the region, particularly drug and arms trafficking and money laundering. The report describes the Tri-Border region as Hezbollah’s “capital,” from which $10 million annually flow into Lebanon alone. If the capital had a “municipal building,” it would be the Galeria Page mall, which the outlet claims is “under the control of the Shiite militia” and used to launder illicit money through its sales.

In 2006, the United States Department of Treasury identified the Galeria Page’s owner, Muhammad Yusif Abdallah, as “a senior Hizballah leader in the TBA [Tri-Border Area] and an important contributor of funds to Hizballah, notably hosting a fundraiser for the terrorist group in the TBA in 2004.” The same press release described the mall as “serv[ing] as a source of fundraising for Hizballah in the TBA and is locally considered the central headquarters for Hizballah members in the TBA.”

The Infobae report claims this situation has not changed since 2006 but, rather, expanded. “Mosques, Islamic cultural centers, businesses and other organizations without apparent political ties unite hundreds of members, which in many cases are ‘used’ by the terrorist group” to generate funding, Infobae notes.

Infobae concludes by noting that Hezbollah has ties to drug trafficking groups in Mexico and negotiates with the world’s largest non-jihadist terror group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), using their “comparative advantage” to work and profit together…

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North Korea’s costly assault on U.S. currency

May 22, 2015

The reason the U.S. has had to incorporate high-tech features into its currency wasn’t because of domestic crooks. It was to retard North Korea from its ongoing, coordinated attempts to flood the world with counterfeit notes and devalue the greenback. This information comes from testimony before Congress by Dr. David Asher. Rep. Al Green (D-TX) asked witnesses about counterfeit bills and merchandise yesterday:

Meanwhile, Pakistan has been doing the same thing to India, a phenomenon that has been ignored by Western media. It’s time for national security analysts to take note that counterfeiting is no longer a strictly criminal activity for profit, but a state-sponsored activity for political, war-making, diplomatic, and larger economic purposes.

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Terror takers: recommended news reading

May 21, 2015
  • Money freed up during Iran talks appears to be rebuilding Hamas’s tunnelsmore>>
  • The black market created by extensive regulation of the tobacco industry is enriching terroristsmore>>
  • ISIS seeks $23 million ransom for captives… more>>
  • Alibaba poses a risk for exporting sensitive military technology to China… more>>
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Term of the week: money mule

May 20, 2015

Money mules are often used to surfeit money or goods on behalf of third parties. The technique is used by a variety of criminals including terrorists, who use the method to transfer money to each other to finance operations. One book defines a money mule as:

A person who transfers money and/or reships valuable, fraudulently-obtained goods. The money mule is often an innocent person who is misled into acting as a go-between in a scam. The instigator is usually a criminal who operates with impunity from another country.

SecurityIntelligence.com reviewed common money mule schemes in an article last fall covering work-from-home, secret shopper, lottery and inheritance schemes:

Money mules are significant in the process of cashing out compromised financial accounts. A money mule is a person who receives and transfers illegally acquired money on behalf of others. Unknowing mules are likely recruited through online job advertisements and spam email. Job titles may include, but are not limited to, “mystery shopper,” “payment processing agent” or “money transfer agent.”

They also may be recruited through romance and lottery scams. Unknowing mules are vulnerable adults who are often older, lonely and potentially financially strapped. Fraudsters will start relationships with these individuals through online dating sites, social networking sites and/or job advertisement sites. The fraudster, acting as a predator, will attempt to cultivate a relationship with the victim based on lies.

Schemes that target unknowing participants are typically focused on employment and relationship scams. At some point, the victims of these schemes (particularly the employment scams) may become knowing, or at least half-suspecting, mules. They realize that they may be part of an illicit scheme but will continue to try to make money because of personal circumstances.

Read the rest of the SecurityIntelligence.com article here.

* Woodward, Jeannette, What Every Librarian Should Know about Electronic Privacy (Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2007).

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Turkey guts cash screening at customs

May 18, 2015

Turkey has revised its customs regulations to the point where one Turkish headline described it as “Unlimited cash entry into Turkey now legalized.” Turkey said the regulations are an improvement compared to the old policy, but experts contacted by Al-Monitor said there was nothing wrong with the previous regulations.

What’s so problematic about this development is that Turkey has been used as a key transit point for money and fighters for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. And that was when there were at least some nominal controls at customs points. Now it appears to be open season.

The other rotten element of this story is that Turkey appears to have waited to change these regulations until just after they came off of the international financial watchdog FATF’s grey list. It’s as though they knew they couldn’t get de-listed with regulations like these, so the bided their time.

Read all about it (h/t @moscow_ghost):

No questions asked about Turkey’s suitcases full of cash

Author Pinar Tremblay Posted May 14, 2015

The Turkish Ministry of Customs and Trade issued new regulations April 15 for entering and leaving Turkey with any amount of cash. The new Customs Code had passed without much public attention until early May, when the news broke with the headlines “Hot money days are over, now starts the black money days” and “Unlimited cash entry into Turkey now legalized.”

Umut Oran, deputy of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), submitted a parliamentarian query asking why the previous Customs Code was replaced with the new code, which would enable suspicious financial transactions, thus increasing the risk for money laundering, terror financing and tax evasion.

In a rather foggy statement, Minister of Customs and Trade Nurettin Canikli said the previous code was unclear, adding there were contradictory clauses in the code, and customs personnel could not be flexible. He said they had only simplified the code. “We had many complaints from exporters bringing money into the country,” Canikli said. “It could be from various countries, such as Iran, Iraq, Syria, the Balkans, where there are no banking services. Frankly, why does it matter if the money comes in cash or through a bank as long as it is money earned from exports? If this is dirty money, it will not be allowed to enter the country. There are no changes with regard to unrecorded cash.”

Yet, all pundits whom Al-Monitor contacted — bankers, customs officials, economists, senior economy editors of reputable news networks — agreed that the vagueness was introduced with the new code, and none were able to see what was wrong with the old code.

The previous Customs Code, which was six pages, was seen as compatible with EU regulations. When questioned about the compatibility of the 2015 codes with the EU, Canikli said, “We are not a member of the EU, we are Turkey.”

Indeed, there is sufficient reason to worry about the 2015 Customs Code, which is two pages shorter than the 2013 version. Yet, with those two deleted pages are red flags. Turkey has been on the gray list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) since 2011. The FATF took Turkey off its list of high-risk and non-cooperative jurisdictions only in October 2014. Turkey came to the brink of suspension of its membership in the FATF in October 2012. In its latest report, the FATF was still concerned with Turkey’s ability to institute a system that would identify and freeze terrorist assets. The report warned about Turkey’s definitions for “terrorism financing” and stated that Turkey’s procedures for freezing the assets of identified groups were too slow.

Emin Capa, CNN Turk’s senior economy editor, told Al-Monitor, “Turkey worked real hard to get off the gray list of the FATF. I doubt the government would enact any legislation that would reverse the decision.” Yet Capa had serious concerns about the new code. “There are three troubling topics. First, the sentence ‘passenger cannot be compelled to make a declaration at customs.’ What does this mean?” he asked. This line was added to the updated 2015 Customs Code, while many other items were excised. This line is indeed contradictory with the inspection regime…

 

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