Archive for the ‘News commentary’ Category

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France mulls ban on Gulf funding of mosques

March 6, 2015

France is considering a prohibition against foreign funding of domestic mosques. This is a sensible proposal given that Saudi funds have been coming with Wahhabi or Salafi strings attached for decades, and Qatar has joined the fray.

But some French Muslims and Socialists oppose the measure, arguing that if mosques cannot be funded by foreign powers then the French government should subsidize the mosques.

How about a third alternative which would be for these mosques to fund themselves through donations from their own members?

From Radio France Internationale on Feb. 15 (h/t EuropeNews):

France to cut Qatar funding of mosques in crackdown on islamic fundamentalism

By RFI with Christina Okello

The French government has announced a series of measures to clamp down on radical Islam being spread in mosques, and wants to cut financial support from countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Critics warn that before it does, it first needs to revise its 1905 law separating Church and State which discriminates against Muslims.

“If foreign countries are stepping in to fund mosques, it’s because the French government won’t” Karim Bouamrane, a socialist candidate in next month’s local elections, told RFI on Saturday.

Bouamrane was reacting to plans by the French government to launch a cultural offensive against Salafist movements, held responsible for brainwashing the country’s young Muslims.

These movements are accused of spreading islamic fundamentalism in mosques, with the financial backing and complicity of countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

“Muslims cannot run the risk of refusing cash from outside, because the French government won’t allocate them funds to build mosques” Bouamrane added, before concluding that the country’s 1905 law separating the Church and State needs to be updated.

The 1905 law, enshrining secularism as a national principle, bars the state from officially recognizing, funding or endorsing religious groups.

But it has come under increased scrutiny in connection with the integration of the Muslim community, many of whom arrived in France in the 1960s, after the 1905 law was passed.

However, Churches and synagogues for instance that were built before 1905, do receive funding and endorsement from the government, leading some Muslims to hit out at double standards.

“Yet the question to reform the law is difficult because France is a laic (secular) country,” Gérard Prudhomme, deputy mayor of Seine-Saint Denis, a rough suburb of Paris, told RFI, “many people against anything which can change this thing.”

However, there are growing calls for the state to fund Muslims’ religious worship in some way, in a bid to plug funding from foreign countries, without compromising its values of secularism…

(See prior Money Jihad coverage of a Gulf Arab funded mega-mosque in Marseille here.)

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Hezbollah financier in Nigeria exposed

March 3, 2015

We’ve known for years that Hezbollah uses supermarkets in West Africa to launder drug money for Hezbollah (such as Tajco Ltd). Amigo Supermarket in Abuja, Nigeria, is just the latest. The U.S. Treasury Department has named 1) Amigo, 2) an amusement park, and 3) a holding company in Nigeria as Hezbollah front companies. Treasury also sanctioned Mustapha Fawaz, age 47, a Lebanese-born Nigerian citizen who co-owns the companies, calling him, “a significant donor to Hizballah” who has “solicited donations in Abuja, Nigeria, and helped arrange the transmission of these funds to Hizballah in Lebanon.”  Treasury’s action freezes any U.S. assets Fawaz may have and prohibits Americans from dealing with Fawaz.

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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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IRA surviving on tobacco fumes

February 15, 2015

Two ex-IRA members have been arrested in the Canary Islands for a money laundering scheme involving at least 10 million euros. Like other IRA has-beens, the culprits seem to have shifted from crimes for a cause to crimes for profit. Or is the IRA’s “next generation” building a nest egg for a comeback?

Hat tip to El Grillo from Agence France-Presse last month:

Two ex-IRA members arrested in Spain for smuggling

Madrid (AFP) – Two former members of the Irish Republican Army were arrested in Spain during a sweep on an alleged tobacco and alcohol smuggling racket, police said Monday.

A Spanish police spokesman told AFP the ex-IRA members arrested for heading the network were Leonard Hardy, 53, and his wife Donna Maria Elizabeth Hardy, 48, both of whom were convicted of a 1989 bombing of a British army barracks in Germany.

The couple was arrested in Lanzarote on the Canary Islands on December 29 with five accomplices as part of coordinated sweeps in Las Palmas, Alicante, Malaga and Murcia, a police statement said.

“They led an organisation smuggling tobacco and alcohol, and laundered money through the acquisition of buildings,” the statement said, adding that an estimated 10.5 million euros ($12.5 million) worth of real estate had been involved.

High Court judge Pablo Ruz charged the couple with money laundering, smuggling and the funding of terrorism linked to the IRA, a judicial source said.

He ordered that Leonard Hardy be jailed while the investigation continued while the wife was released under judicial supervision so she could look after the couple’s children in Britain, the source added.

Spanish officials froze additional property assets worth more than 5.5 million euros ($6.5 million), and 90 bank accounts and investment portfolios in Spain…

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Senator calls for halal financial transparency

February 13, 2015

Questioning whether the halal industry in Australia may be financing the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Sen. Jacqui Lambie is introducing a bill mandating disclosure of halal certification fees and creating a formal reporting mechanism for misuse of halal certification money. Given the documented intersections between halal certification boards and the financing of Muslim Brotherhood affiliates, this bill would be an important step in the right direction for all Western democracies, including individual American state legislatures, to consider adopting.

From the Australian Associated Press (AAP) on Feb. 10 (h/t El Grillo):

‘Halal money’ funds terrorism: Lambie

Independent Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie has questioned whether halal certification funds militants in Syria and Iraq.

Jacqui Lambie is threatening to introduce a private senator’s bill to stop what she believes is “halal money” funding terrorist group Islamic State.

In a late-night address to the upper house on Tuesday, the outspoken independent senator questioned whether halal certification funds militants in Syria and Iraq.

She said she was prompted to look into the issue after receiving hundreds of emails from concerned residents.

A study the Tasmanian senator commissioned the parliamentary library to examine exposed some “surprising facts” that alarmed her.

Certifiers are not legally required to disclose their fees, nor is there a formal reporting or auditing system to ascertain whether funds are being misused, she says.

“Given that our enemies in Islamic State are receiving a steady cashflow to control their caliphate in Syria and Iraq, why isn’t there a legal requirement in Australia for halal certification fees to be disclosed?” Senator Lambie said.

“And given that our nation is on high terrorism alert, while hundreds of Australian Islamic State sympathisers are fighting our ADF forces in Iraq, why is there is no formal reporting or auditing mechanism in Australia to ascertain whether monies paid for halal certification are misused?”…

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Official funded terrorists from Pakistan’s embassy

February 10, 2015

A Pakistani visa official with a list of Hizb ut-Tahrir militants in his possession was detained by Bangladeshi authorities last month. The official, Mohammad Mazahar Khan, tried to destroy the list before his arrest, according to the Daily Sun. Mazahar was detained along with an accomplice, Mojibur Rahman. Mojibur subsequently confessed that he has circulated counterfeit Bangladeshi rupees on behalf of Mazahar and Mazahar’s predecessor before him. Bangladeshi authorities suspect that Pakistan is funding militant groups and undermining Bangladesh’s currency through Pakistan’s high commission (embassy) in Dhaka.

This “visa” official was actually a Pakistani intelligence agent (h/t Munazir) working at the embassy who got caught.  Bangladesh News 24 notes that, “It is not unusual for Pakistani nationals — and officials under diplomatic cover — to be engaged in criminal activities particularly in militants in Bangladesh.”

And we all just have to put up with these ongoing abuses by Pakistan in the interests of “diplomacy”?

From the Daily Sun on Feb. 2 (h/t CyberGroupBD):

An official of Pakistan High Commission in Dhaka is alleged to have been associated with financing the militants, money laundering and supplying counterfeit currencies. The official named Mohammad Mazahar Khan was detained red-handed by police last month but later released from Banani thana at the intervention of the High Commission. The connection of this assistant visa officer of Pakistan High Commission with the militants and his other misdeeds alongside have been revealed in intelligence investigation. Consequently an intelligence report has recommended for expulsion of visa officer Mazahar from Bangladesh at the earliest. Side by side, the report has suggested for enhancing surveillance on Pakistani nationals in Dhaka.

Intelligence officials have informed, the matters are being reviewed with caution because of diplomatic relations. It is difficult to verify any suspicion about High Commission officials. Even questioning can not be done due to the intervention of diplomats of the county concerned. The report has been submitted to the government last month mentioning about the alarming situation. According to police and intelligence sources two people named Mohammad Mazhar Khan and Mojibur Rahman were detained in a drive in the Moytri Market area of Banani on January 12 evening. Just at the time of being detained Mazhar tore down some papers. Joining the pieces of paper together later police found that the papers contained some Bangladeshi passport numbers and names. Even before those papers could be scrutinized Pakisani High Commission first secretary Samina Mahtab came to Banani thana and took away Mazahar Khan under her custody. Subsequently the intelligence people came to know through investigation that three of the people who’s passport numbers were written in the paper are directly linked with Hizbut Tahrir. Mujibur Rahman detained with Mazahar disclosed during interrogation that he was acquainted with Mazahar Khan through his predecessor. During the one decade Mujibor travel 20 times to Pakistan, 11 times to India and 22 times to Thailand. On the latest occasion Mazahar had given Mujibor 1.80 lakh Indian fake rupees to circulate those at different places. Mujibor made a confession before the court that Mazahar has used Zahid, Imran and some others in this business of fake rupees. Intelligence officials feel that this Pakistan High Commission official has a direct role in destroying the Bangladesh money market. The officials stated that Mazahar has contact with retired army and police officials, university teachers, businessmen and various others people. Sources said customs intelligence department detained Pakistan citizen Mohammad Imran from Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport on 15 January. 80 thousand Indian rupees were also found from him. Information revealed that Imran entered into Bangladesh through fake passport and visa.

Information is available that some officials of the Pakistan High Commission are involved in money laundering and making counterfeit notes. They are reportedly patronizing Hizb-ut-Tahrir, Ansarullah Bangla Team, Jamaat and its student organisation Shibir. The members of various militant outfits are getting foreign trips at the behest of the above officials’ help. Roles of the officials are dubious. Sources at the intelligence agencies claimed to have found evidence of involvement of some officials in trading counterfeit Indian currency. The name of Mazhar Khan can be mentioned in this regard. This diplomat has been financing the militants and arranging training for them. He is implementing various agendas of Pakistani intelligence ISI here. He has reportedly created a network in the host country. Abusing the diplomatic identity, he has resorted to masterminding sabotage and criminal activities. The intelligence report recommended for expulsion of Mazhar from this country. It also underscored the need for keeping a close eye on the people coming from Pakistan.

Asked about the matter, several intelligence sources said the officials of Pakistan High Commission were found to be involved in the rise of JMB and other militant network during the BNP-Jamaat regime. Such investigation could not be proceeded perhaps for the interest of bilateral relations between two countries…

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Feds foil 6 Bosnians funding ISIS from U.S.

February 9, 2015

Ramiz Zijad Hodzic collected $8,000 in Missouri. Then he used the U.S. postal service, Western Union, and PayPal to send $10,000 worth of cash and military gear to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria through intermediaries in Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Ramiz had at least five co-conspirators that we’re aware of. Their cause is not Bosnian political reform. They are not trying to send a signal to Serbia or Russia. They are answering the siren call of the caliphate. Their cause is jihad.

From USA Today:

U.S. accuses 6 immigrants of helping Islamic State

An indictment has been unsealed charging Ramiz Zijad Hodzic, 40, his wife, Sedina Unkic Hodzic, 35, and Armin Harcevic, 37, all of St. Louis County. Nihad Rosic, 26, of Utica, N.Y., Mediha Medy Salkicevic, 34, of Schiller Park, Ill., and Jasminka Ramic, 42, of Rockford, Ill., were also named in the indictment.

The United States attorney’s office says all six suspects are natives of Bosnia who immigrated to the United States and are either naturalized citizens or have refugee or legal resident status.

Federal investigators were working for two years between 2013 and 2014 to track the suspects. They say Ramiz and Sedina Hodzic were the point people for funneling money, guns and military equipment to Islamic State fighters in the Middle East. The husband and wife made their initial appearance in federal court Friday evening.

On Saturday, Salkicevic appeared in federal court in Chicago, speaking only to confirm she understood the charges against her.

Investigators say Ramiz set up an account in St. Louis to collect close to $8,000. He used his own money and got cash from the other suspects and third parties. Then, the feds say, Ramiz bought more than $2,400 in military equipment from St. Louis businesses. He bought military uniforms, combat boots, tactical gear and firearms accessories then shipped them through the U.S. Postal Service to Turkey.

Ramiz wired more than $7,700 cash between 2013 and 2014 through Western Union to Islamic State fighters, funneling it through Turkey, Bosnia and Saudi Arabia.

Ramiz Zijad Hodzic and Nihad Rosic are charged with conspiring to kill and maim persons in a foreign country…

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