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Syria’s black market rife with hawala

September 27, 2011

According to the State Department’s “2010” (actually, August 2011) report on global terrorism, Syria remains a state sponsor of terrorism.  That’s not very surprising, but what is interesting to read is that hawala there is rampant within a black market that is as big as Syria’s whole economy.

Syria remained a source of concern regarding terrorist financing. Industry experts reported that 60 percent of all business transitions were conducted in cash and that nearly 80 percent of all Syrians did not use formal banking services. Despite Syrian legislation that required money-changers to be licensed by the end of 2007, many money-changers in 2010 continued to operate illegally in Syria’s vast black market, estimated to be as large as Syria’s formal economy. Regional “hawala” networks remained intertwined with smuggling and trade-based money laundering, facilitated by notoriously corrupt customs and immigration officials, raising significant concerns that some members of the Syrian government and the business elite were complicit in terrorist financing schemes.

Hawala is a method of financial transfer embraced by Muhammad.  It is used today by Muslims across the world to send remittances to their home countries, for routine transactions, but also, thanks to its invisible paper trail, to fund terrorism.

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