h1

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)…

One comment

  1. Afghanistan’s tribal culture is likely to remain impenetrable for the next generation or two despite the West’s best intentions. Working with hawala intermediaries is inescapable. Multilateral and NGO efforts with microfinance projects give the West an entry point into the hawala system that can help attract good actors and identify bad ones.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: