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10 red flags over Dahabshiil

February 28, 2015

Does the international remittance company Dahabshiil finance terrorism? Are its anti-money laundering and counter-terror finance programs adequate? Here are 10 warning signs to keep in mind:

  1. Mohammed Sulaymon Barre, a Somali citizen and former Guantanamo Bay detainee, was alleged by U.S. officials to have worked in Osama bin Laden’s compound in Sudan in 1994 and 1995. He later worked at a Dahabshiil office in Pakistan before his detention. During a 2005 hearing at Guantanamo, a military judge told Barre, “I am convinced that your branch of the Dahabshiil company was used to transfer money for terrorism.” (Source: Washington Post).
  2. In early 2011, Somali music star and future member of Somalia’s parliament, Saado Ali Warsame, released a protest song entitled, “Dhiigshiil ha dhigan” (which translates as “Don’t Deposit with Dahabshiil” or “Don’t send your money through Dahabshiil”). The song called Dahabshiil a “blood-smelter,” “the enemy of Somalia,” and implored Somalis: “do not deposit your money” with Dahabshiil. (Source: Money Jihad)
  3. In late 2011, the Bell Pottinger public relations and lobbying firm cited its success in “manipulating Google rankings” on behalf of its client Dahabshiil to ensure that the Guantanamo Bay detainee story about Mohammed Sulaymon Barre didn’t appear on the first 10 pages of Google search results. (Source: The Independent)
  4. Amina Farah Ali and Hawo Mohamed Hassan were convicted in October 2011 on federal charges of providing material support to the terrorist group al-Shabaab. The indictment had alleged that “Ali and others acting at her direction transmitted funds to al-Shabaab through the hawala money remittance system” using Dahabshiil and other remitters. (Source: U.S. v. Amina Farah Ali)
  5. In December 2011, Minneapolis-based Franklin Bank and St. Paul-based Sunrise Community Banks ceased doing business with Somali hawala dealers and money transfer organizations including Dahabshiil over “concerns that the accounts put them at risk of violating federal rules designed to halt terror financing.” (Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune).
  6. The British banking giant Barclays announced its intentions to sever ties with Dahabshiil in 2013 over regulatory compliance and terror financing concerns. (Source: Associated Press.) Litigation ensued which delayed Barclays’s plans, but a deal to end their business relationship was finally reached in April 2014. (Source: Financial Times)
  7. In April 2014, U.S. Bancorp backed out of a long-planned deal with Dahabshiil after “an independent review of Dahabshiil and the inherent risk of doing business in Somalia.” (Source: American Banker)
  8. Danish regulators found Dahabshiil offices in Copenhagen, Kolding, Aalborg, and Aarhus to be “completely inadequate” in their compliance with anti-money laundering and terrorist financing laws in Denmark, and referred the case to police for further investigation in July 2014. (Source: Danish Financial Supervisory Authority)
  9. Somali news outlets reported in July 2014 that several Dahabshiil offices in Middle and Lower Juba were ordered by al-Shabaab to be closed after failing to make payments to al-Shabaab on time. (Sources: Radio Kulmiye, Shiniile News, and Dayniile)
  10. Merchants Bank of California announced this month that it is ending its Somali remittance services including Dahabshiil accounts amidst “concerns that some money could be making its way to Islamic militants.” (Source: KARE 11)

Dahabshiil denies all allegations of financing terrorism.

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Business experts weigh in on ISIS’s organ sales

February 27, 2015

Black market organ sales and the financing of ISIS was the subject of a segment on last Saturday’s edition of the business news show “Bulls & Bears” on Fox News.  Among the more interesting points made during the discussion came from hedge fund manager Gary B. Smith, who suggested that ISIS’s financial swamp can be drained by following the model for prosecuting organized crime rings to include developing informants and flipping them to rat out the big bosses.  That would have been easier if Pres. Obama had tried to keep a residual force in Iraq to include human intelligence forces, but it’s still a valid prescription for tackling ISIS sleeper cells in the West.  Roll tape:

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Term of the week: Tajheez al-Ghazi

February 25, 2015

There are some quotations about halfway down the right-hand margin of this webpage including a statement attributed to Muhammad that “The warrior gets his reward, and the one who equips him gets his own reward and that of the warrior” (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 14 No. 2520) and a sales pitch from Osama Bin Laden who told Muslim businessmen, “Your duty is to support the Mujahideen with money and men… The Zakat of one affluent Muslim merchant is enough to finance all the Jihadi front against our enemies.”

These are central concepts behind the money jihad, or al jihad bi-al-mal (see here and here). Those who wage jihad with their life or their money are to be considered of greater worth than Muslims who “sit at home” according to classic Islamic texts.

Another element of this principle is the concept of tajheez al-ghazi. Tajheez means “preparation” and al-ghazi means “warrior.” Those who cannot personally join the fight are asked to prepare (ie to fund, arm, gird, or fit) the warrior for battle.

Edwina Thompson and Aimen Dean learned more about this concept during extensive field work and interviews with 65 current or former jihadist operatives, and published it (along with co-author Tom Keatinge) in the July/August 2013 edition of Perspectives on Terrorism journal. This is a must-read:

…There are many examples from the Qur’an which illustrate the importance of giving generously to the cause of jihad and the war effort. Islam recognised from the beginning that wars, whether defensive or offensive, cost money. Therefore Islam devised a mechanism by which people would voluntarily contribute, and contribute generously, to the war effort while considering such contributions as charity. As history shows, early Muslims took this message to heart. Contributions to the Jihad took many forms: some provided arms and shields, others food and livestock, or horses and camels. The most common method of contribution is ‘Tajheez al-Ghazi’ – simply defined as fitting or arming a soldier, which allows for those who cannot, or will not, join the jihad physically for whatever reason, to achieve the honour and heavenly reward of waging jihad by proxy. The Prophet Muhammad encouraged this type of sponsorship: ‘Whoever arms a Ghazi then he would be considered a Ghazi, and whoever looked after the family of an absent Ghazi, he will too be considered a Ghazi’ (Bukhari, 2630). More popular than shields, armour, and horses is now money, which is paid to individuals aspiring to make their way to jihad theatres of conflict.

Jihad volunteers are the life and blood of such theatres in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, North Africa and Syria today. Therefore, without Tajheez being readily available for potential Jihadists the ability of groups such as al-Qaeda and the Taliban to sustain their level of activity in these theatres would be severely limited. From primary research that covers the period from 1991 to mid-2012, it emerged the Tajheez cost per jihadist was between US $3,000 and $4,000 in Bosnia (due to the number of countries that the volunteer needed to pass en route and the need to cover the cost of his AK-47), and US $2,000 to reach Afghanistan and have enough money to cover basic needs. In the case of the roughly 100 foreign jihadists who made it to Chechnya, the cost of Tajheez skyrocketed to more than US $15,000 per person due to the difficulty of entering Chechnya.

As jihad theatres emerge around the globe and attract public and media attention, local individuals, clerics and small fundraising cells organically emerge to organise and collect funding for Tajheez. Again, primary research conducted by one of the authors indicates that four out of ten Jihadists received their Tajheez from money raised or contributed by women. The funds are collected in cash, handled by individual and small cells, with almost no banking transactions occurring or with funds moving through officially registered charitable channels. Some contributors use their own credit cards to purchase tickets for traveling jihadists. Tajheez relies on hundreds of outlets, whether they are clerics or coordinators, dispersed over dozens of countries and with no organisational links between them or to a central authority, making it impossible to track them all. What unites them is a common cause…

Anybody who is serious about understanding the motives behind those who donate money to jihadist causes or the methods behind terrorist fundraising must grasp this concept.

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Iran still won’t sign accord against terror finance

February 23, 2015

The International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism went into effect in 2002. Over 180 countries have signed the rather bland convention. But not Iran.

Not that we could take Iran at its word, but shouldn’t they agree to sign the convention prior to concluding a deal with Iran about their nuclear program?

Lebanon hasn’t signed it either. Other non-signatory countries with Islamist political movements include The Gambia and Chad. But they don’t have nuclear programs.

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4 “Swedes” used 6 front companies to fund ISIS

February 22, 2015

And these are just among the handful that we know about. Not many details are available, but what sounds unusual about this case is that the suspects appear to have somehow used businesses to channel funds to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (rather than using more conventional terrorist methods of hawala, wire transfers, cash smuggling, or charities).

From Agence France-Presse on Feb. 17 (h/t El Grillo):

Swedish police detained four people Tuesday on suspicion of having used six companies to help fund the Islamic State group, the Dagens Nyheter daily reported.

Police said a “large raid” took place in Stockholm as part of a probe into money laundering and undeclared work but declined to comment further.

Sources close to the investigation told Dagens Nyheter the suspects had ties to Syria and IS.

The paper said Tuesday’s arrests targeted three men and a woman aged between 31 and 50.

Swedish government agencies estimate that up to 10 million Swedish kronor ($1.19 million, 1.05 million euros) are sent to violent extremist groups every year…

AFP goes on to mention that over a hundred “Swedes” have joined terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria since 2012. These are, more precisely, mostly Muslim immigrants, refugees, and their young adult sons who have become residents of Sweden.

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The Terror Finance Blog returns

February 20, 2015

The Terror Finance Blog is back up and running after domain problems over the past several months.  The new URL is http://www.terrorfinanceblog.com .  Please visit the website and update your bookmarks, favorites, or blog rolls. TTFB has been a key source of information and analysis of terror finance issues since 2006.  Money Jihad blogger A.D. Kendall has been a contributing expert with TTFB since March 2014.

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Dark money news: recommended reading

February 19, 2015
  • Names of three Golden Chain donors to Al Qaeda are said to have shown up on list of Swiss bank account holders… more>>
  • Billions are invested into the financial technologies of tomorrow while pennies are spent on security… more>>
  • Not persuaded that some diplomats launder money? The FBI says a former ambassador from Venezuela raised funds for Hezbollah while in office… more>>
  • Weapons smuggling is the target of recurring U.S. sanctions against small, obscure Iranian companies… more>>
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