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Hawala saturates 90% of Afghan financial market

April 27, 2015

The U.S. State Department has published its international narcotics report for 2015. The report notes that only 10 percent of financial transactions in Afghanistan are handled through the formal banking sector. The other 90 percent are handled through hawala, the traditional Islamic system of debt transfers. Hawala is a way of moving value without moving physical cash. Its untraceable nature is tailor made for terror financing and other illicit activities.

The State Department report indicates that the prevalence of hawala in Afghanistan facilitates the movement of proceeds from the Afghan drug trade. As crazy as it may sound to Western compliance officers, the thousands of hawala dealers in Afghanistan have yet to file any suspicious transaction reports to Afghanistan’s central financial regulator—not even a single one. And even their banks are using hawala! All this and we’ve been there for over 13 years…

The growth in Afghanistan’s banking sector has slowed considerably in recent years; and traditional payment systems, particularly hawala networks, remain significant in their reach and scale. Less than 10 percent of the Afghan population uses banks, depending instead on the traditional hawala system, which provides a range of financial and non-financial business services in local, regional, and international markets. Approximately 90 percent of financial transactions run through the hawala system, including foreign exchange transactions, funds transfers, trade and microfinance, as well as some deposit-taking activities. Official corruption and weaknesses in the banking sector incentivize the use of informal mechanisms and exacerbate the difficulty of developing a transparent formal financial sector in Afghanistan. The unlicensed and unregulated hawaladars in major drug areas such as Helmand likely account for a substantial portion of the illicit proceeds being moved in the financial system. Afghan business consortiums that control both hawaladars and banks allow criminal elements within these consortiums to manipulate domestic and international financial networks to send, receive, and launder illicitly-derived monies or funds intended for criminal, insurgent, or terrorism activities…

…There is no clear division between the hawala system and the formal financial sector [in Afghanistan]. Hawaladars often keep accounts at banks and use wire transfer services to settle their balances with other hawaladars abroad. Due to limited bank branch networks, banks occasionally use hawalas to transmit funds to hard-to-reach areas within Afghanistan. Afghanistan’s financial intelligence unit, FINTRACA, reports that no MSBs or hawaladars have ever submitted suspicious transaction reports (STRs)…

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Jihadist ops and wages dominate ISIS’s expenses

April 26, 2015

How does the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria spend its millions (or billions)? The Congressional Research Service offers this summary of ISIS expenditures (h/t El Grillo):

The Islamic State has established a network of ministries to govern the territory it controls and has sought able administrators. IS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi in a July 2014 audio recording called for “scientists, scholars, preachers, judges, doctors, engineers and people with administrative expertise of all domains” to move to the Islamic State, which required their expertise. In December 2014, the IS Office of Zakat—a finance ministry equivalent—announced that it would give a series of assessment tests to recruit new staff. The office said it was seeking candidates with PhDs in Islamic law and economics, as well as those with high school diplomas. The Islamic State in late 2014 also announced plans to mint its own currency out of gold, silver, and copper, but as of early 2015 this had not materialized. Iraqi sources in January 2015 stated that the Islamic State had established its own bank in Mosul, which granted loans and accepted deposits.

The Islamic State approved a $2 billion dollar budget for the year in early 2015, including a projected $250 million dollar surplus, designed to cover the costs of operations in both Iraq and Syria. Some have argued that despite this budget, the group does not generate enough revenue to fully cover all of its expenses. In addition to the cost of military operations, the Islamic State must also provide salaries, maintain and repair infrastructure, and fill other state functions, such as the provision of social services…

CRS further estimates that ISIS pays each unmarried fighter $400 to $600 a month.  That’s about 10 times higher than prior research showed. An estimate of infrastructure and service delivery was not provided.

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Kenya nabs imam alleged to have funded attack that killed 148

April 24, 2015

Keep up the good work, Kenya.  From IntelligenceBriefs.com on April 20:

Garissa Attack: Sheikh Mahat Omar, Alleged University Terror Financier Held

Kenyan police are currently detaining a Muslim cleric alleged to have financed the Garissa attack in which Al-Shabaab terrorists killed 148 people.

Police say Sheikh Hassan Mahat Omar who they are holding in Nairobi will help police investigations.

The Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (ATPU) on Monday got a 30-day extended detention order by a court against Sheikh Hassan Mahat Omar, who was arrested on Friday.

According to the police, Sheikh Mahat Omar has close links with Mohammed Kuno, alias Sheikh Mahammad, alias Dulydin, alias Garmadhere, Al-Shabaab’s leader in the Juba region of Somalia and the alleged mastermind of the recent terrorist attack at the learning institution.

The prosecution alleged in court on Monday that Mr Omar and a Mr Ali Hassan Gure, who is yet to be presented in court, are involved in the financing of terrorism…

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Terror finance progress: suggested news reading

April 23, 2015
  • Judge denies Arab Bank’s request to throw out a verdict against it… more>>
  • The feds have busted 5 people and 4 companies for illegal shipments to Iranmore>>
  • The U.S. passes Saudi Arabia in oil production and is poised to become energy independent in 4 years… more>>
  • A Hamas treasurer has reportedly been arrested… more>>
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“Fact check” on halal-terror links ignores facts

April 21, 2015

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s “Fact Check” department recently examined politician Pauline Hanson’s comment that the halal certification business “is a profit money-making racket. The money goes into Islamic organisations and has been connected to the Muslim Brotherhood in France and actually also in Canada.” ABC claims that “Ms Hanson’s claim doesn’t check out.”

Yet Hanson’s quotation is 100 percent accurate. Muslim Brotherhood affiliates have indeed profited from their dual roles as halal certification boards in France and Canada. ABC ignored the evidence in those cases. The Union of the Islamic Organizations in France and the Muslim Association of Canada—both strongly associated with the Muslim Brotherhood—have made significant profits from certifying food as halal. In the case of MAC, the money it made was subsequently given to IRFAN, a front charity for Hamas.

Instead of examining the French and Canadian evidence, the ABC focused exclusively on whether halal fees have ever been shown to fund terrorism in Australia. ABC reports that Australia’s financial regulatory agency said that “it had no information” and that other Australian officials are not aware of “direct links” between halal certification and terror finance.

Besides, at least in what ABC quoted Hanson as saying, she didn’t even mention terrorism.

It should be clear to fair minded readers that ABC’s article unfairly discredited a politician and disappointingly failed to investigate the facts of the UIOF and MAC cases.

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High-risk men max out credit cards before Middle East travel

April 20, 2015

Over one hundred “very high-risk” account holders have borrowed the maximum amount of money they could from their bank before traveling to countries neighboring Iraq and Syria.  Presumably this means Turkey and perhaps Lebanon or Jordan.  Typically those are the places ISIS recruits from the West fly into before crossing the border by ground into Syria or Iraq.  The credit card accounts have gone dormant and the debts will never be paid back.

Thanks to Gisele for sending this news in about debt-financed travel for jihad from QMI via the Toronto Sun:

114 ‘high-risk’ Canadians bilked RBC before leaving for areas near conflict zones

The Royal Bank of Canada has identified 114 clients as “very high-risk” for maxing out their credit cards before travelling to countries near Syria and Iraq, QMI Agency has learned.

Before leaving Canada, the clients borrowed the maximum amount of money allowed on their credit cards or lines of credit, a senior RBC vice president, Karim Rajwani, told participants during a webinar earlier this year.

QMI Agency obtained the audio recording.

The webinar was organized for anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing professionals in the banking industry.

Rajwani, a world expert in the fight against terrorist financing, says he discreetly shared his information with the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service.

None of the 114 clients paid off their debts and their accounts have been inactive since they left the country, he added.

“We aren’t saying that these people are terrorists, just very high-risk individuals,” Rajwani noted.

“They get a line of credit and they leave. We see a few transactions in overseas ATMs in countries neighbouring areas controlled by the Islamic State, and after that they disappear”…

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Kenya suspends 13 remitters including Dahabshiil

April 17, 2015

Kenya has frozen the bank accounts of 86 people and suspended the licenses of 13 money transfer organizations, including Dahabshiil, for their alleged role in funding the terrorist group al-Shabaab.  From NTV Kenya last week:

Critics of decisions like this often claim that regulators are cutting off “life lines” to poor Somalis by making money transfers to Somalia more difficult.  But as the news report points out, there are major, conventional banks that provide wire services.  It’s just that the fees are higher with the banks than with smaller money transfer firms and hawala dealers.  Kudos to Kenya for attempting to rein in the funding of al-Shabaab.

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