Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan’

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Taliban sends tax bills to big telecom

January 28, 2016

The Taliban has demanded that four telecommunications companies operating in Afghanistan pay them a 10 percent.  This news from Agence France Presse suggests the Taliban is expanding the scope of their revenue dragnet.  The companies have not commented on whether or not they will give in to the Taliban’s demands, although AFP quotes one corporate source who sounded like they haven’t decided what to do yet.  The situation is resembles Somalia, where telecommunications companies have reportedly made payments to the terrorist group Al-Shabaab.

Afghan Taliban flex muscles with new telecom ‘tax’

By AFP

Published: January 18, 2016

KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN: The Taliban have demanded a hefty new “protection tax” from Afghan mobile phone companies, industry and militant sources told AFP, as the resurgent group tightens its stranglehold on a rare successful business in a slumping war economy.

At a secret meeting last month near Quetta, the Taliban’s central leadership formally demanded the tax from representatives of four cellular companies in exchange for not damaging their sites or harming their employees.

The edict was motivated by an Afghan government announcement in October that it had amassed a windfall of 78 million Afghani within days of imposing an additional 10 per cent tax on operators, according to two telecom company officials who attended the meeting and a third industry executive privy to the information.

“They want us to pay the same amount paid to the government,” one of the officials who was at the gathering told AFP.

“We told them that this will kill our business, but they said: ‘This is the only way to guarantee your people are not harmed and your sites are not burned’,” he added.

A source in the Quetta Shura — the Taliban’s Pakistan-based leadership council — confirmed the meeting, telling AFP the group was waiting for a formal response from the companies.

“We told them: ‘It is our right to tax you if you want us to protect your (transmission) towers around Afghanistan’,” he said. “‘You will have to pay’.”

The militants have long targeted Afghanistan’s private telecom firms, kidnapping engineers, destroying transmission masts and forcing regular coverage blackouts in volatile areas to avoid detection of their fighters.

Local-level Taliban commanders have been known to extort from businesses operating in their areas, notably the telecom firms and logistics companies supplying Nato bases and Western-funded construction projects.

But this appears to be the first time the central leadership has formally demanded a levy from business enterprises, underscoring how they increasingly operate like a shadow government.

It also highlights the dangers of doing business in conflict-torn Afghanistan — particularly for the telecom industry, fast becoming a battleground in the Taliban’s war against the US-backed Afghan government.

The companies said to be at the meeting — Abu-Dhabi based Etisalat, South Africa’s MTN and homegrown firms Roshan and Afghan Wireless Communication Company — officially declined to comment when contacted by AFP.

But one of them confirmed the meeting and tax demand, voicing a mix of helplessness and frustration.

“Ten per cent tax to the Taliban? That means we will have to share our revenue information with a militant organisation,” a Kabul-based company representative told AFP.

“That’s just not feasible. We told them ‘no’.”

But one of the telecom officials who attended the Pakistan meeting said there was no escaping the Taliban edict, adding that the companies at best could wrangle a concession from the insurgents in future negotiations…

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10 biggest terror finance news stories of 2015

January 4, 2016
  1. Funding of Paris attacks

The November 2015 attackers paid for $32,000 worth of pre-attack operations including hotel lodging and car rentals through anonymous prepaid cards purchased in Belgium. Payments were loaded in small increments; rules for prepaid cards allow for reloading up to $2,500 without identity verification. Although the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is responsible for the attacks and the training of several attackers, the precise source of the $32,000 is less clear. Money for travel appears to have become available after a stopover in Greece.

  1. Nuclear deal will release billions to Iran

The nuclear agreement that President Obama signed will release $100 billion to $150 billion of frozen assets to Iran, a state sponsor of terrorism. Hopefully the asset thaw will get gummed up in court while attorneys seek to collect the compensation that is owed to the victims of Iranian-sponsored terrorism first.

  1. Wahhabi funding monarch takes power

Saudi Arabia has crowned a new king, Salman bin Abdulaziz, who started his career in public service by bankrolling the exportation of radical Wahhabism throughout the Islamic world. We will be contending with well-funded terrorist groups for as long as men such as Salman rule Arabia.

  1. Coalition bombs ISIS oil fields

According to news reports, the U.S. is increasing pressure against ISIS’s financial assets by bombing oil fields in their territory. If true, the bombing means that the Obama administration has begun to recognize that it is worth destroying oil infrastructure to deprive ISIS of funding even if it means it will be harder to rebuild the infrastructure when and if ISIS retreats.

  1. Son of terror victim sues wire transfer company

The son of a slain Somali politician and singing star is suing the money transfer company Dahabshiil for its alleged involvement in issuing a bounty for the singer’s murder. Saado Ali Warsame had sung a song denouncing Dahabshiil as a financier of terror and a profiteer from inter-tribal conflict.

  1. Jihadists in Yemen fund Charlie Hebdo assassins

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) gave $20,000 to future Charlie Hebdo attacker Said Kouachi before he and his brother left Yemen in August 2011. The foreign funding helps explain how a group of underemployed ex-cons were able to buy AK-47s for their January 2015 attacks and pay for Said Kouachi’s international travels.

  1. PA and PLO owe damages for terror attacks

A jury found the Palestinian Authority and the PLO liable for terrorist attacks with American victims in the early 2000s, with damages set at $656 million in Sokolow v. PLO. A federal judge set $10 million bond while the PA and PLO appeal.

  1. Taliban takes control of more turf

The Washington Post reports that the Taliban has taken control or maintains a significant presence in 30 percent of Afghanistan—the most territory it has occupied since 2001. The problem with this from a financial standpoint is that the Taliban lives off the land. One of their primary sources of income is taxation on commercial activity in the areas they control. More turf means more money.

  1. Arab Bank settles with terror victims

Arab Bank PLC provided client services to Hamas affiliates which funded terrorist attacks against Israel. After years of lawsuits, the settlement was reached between the bank and American victims of these terrorist attacks, possibly for $1 billion. Together with the Sokolow, these cases show that legal tactics can be used effectively to hit terrorists where it hurts: their wallets.

  1. Debt-financing of San Bernadino attack

Syed Rizwan Farook took out a $28,000 debt consolidation loan weeks before waging an assault against his victims. This method of financing attacks is particularly popular among jihadists living in Western countries where easy credit is, well, easy.

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Afghan jihadists seek funds to help ISIS

July 14, 2015

Militants are using Afghanistan to raise money for the Islamic State terror group.  This assertion is coming from Afghan officials.  The officials could benefit from international security aid, so they may be a little biased.  But it’s hard to ignore them as ISIS has expanded its appeal around the globe.  It stands to reason that Central Asia jihadists might be looking for a champion with a more recent string of successes than the Taliban.  From Khaama Press on June 13 (h/t @skinroller):

ISIS affiliates in Afghanistan seeking financial help to rise: Ulomi

The Minister of Interior Noor-ul-Haq Ulomi said Saturday that the militants who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group, are seeking financial support to maintain their operations in the country.

Presenting the ministry’s 100-Day plans and strategies, Ulomi said the ISIS affiliates include Uzbeks, Tajiks, Kyrgyz nationals, Chechens, Turks and Uyghurs.

He said the ISIS affiliates are looking to create sanctuaries in Afghanistan considering the geographic interests of the country and by taking advantage of the ongoing violence.

Insisting on regional cooperation to curb the activities of the terror group, Ulomi warned it would be difficult to stop the terror group from spreading its activities if it gained a foothold in Afghanistan.

The remarks by Ulomi comes as the former Afghan President Hamid Karzai said the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group in Afghanistan would threaten neighboring Russia and China if the group gained a strong foothold in the country.

Karzai insisted that the rise of the terror group in Afghanistan would not be possible without the foreign backing. “So, if you hear ever in the coming days, or months, or years that Daesh is on the rise in Afghanistan, and is strong and expanding militarily, it will mean that it is a foreign-backed force intending to destabilize the region, particularly Central Asia, China and Russia,” he added.

On the other hand, the Afghan national security advisor Hanif Atmar said the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group is looking to have access to drugs market by starting operations in Afghanistan…

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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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Money for terror: recommended news reading

April 16, 2015
  • This young couple in St. Louis would rather fund jihad than make love… more>>
  • ISIS demands a ransom of $100,000 per Christian’s head… more>>
  • The U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations, which is connected to a jihad fundraising website, recently visited with congressional Democrats… more>>
  • An Afghan colonel’s murder of 8 U.S. airmen may have been a quarter-million-dollar contract killingmore>>
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Ted Talk: Hawala focus distracts from Gulf donors

February 17, 2015

Following 9/11 and the invasion of Afghanistan, concerns about the use of hawala in terror finance schemes led Coalition forces and the new Afghan government to refrain from paying Afghan troop wages through hawala, although no other formal banking or payroll system was available at the time. Dr. Edwina Thompson argues that the preoccupation with hawala also distracted Coalition partners from confronting the true source of terror finance:  Gulf donors.

Here’s Thompson’s recent TEDxClapham talk on the subject.  Pay particular attention to minutes 11-14.  But watch the whole video—it includes Thompson’s reflection on her own near abduction by militants while doing research in Jalalabad:

The point is well made. As Money Jihad has often said, hawala is not a source of financing terrorism, it is a method. We can regulate or eliminate methods, but determined sources of financing will find other ways of transferring value unless we stop those donors where they live.

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$1 million in Afghan smuggling a day

January 25, 2015

A hundred million Pakistani rupees (roughly 1 million USD) worth of merchandise is smuggled out of Afghanistan through the Afghan Trade Transit (ATT) corridor with Pakistan every day according to check-post and customs officials. In their 2010 book On the Trail of Terror Finance, John Cassara and Avi Jorisch wrote that the ATT “has resulted in massive smuggling and trade fraud, and it continues to facilitate the laundering of narcotics proceeds that help finance the Taliban.” ATT smuggling serves as another arrow in the Taliban’s quiver as U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan draws down.

From Customs Today:

Smuggling of Rs 100m carried out daily thru Afghan Transit route: sources

Reported by: Sohail Rab December 25, 2014

KARACHI: The smuggling of around Rs 100 million is being carried out daily through Afghan Transit Trade (ATT), it was learnt here.

The highly informed sources while sharing their views with Customs Today have disclosed that 95 percent of smuggling of goods including tiles, diesel, cloths, tea, tyres and others is being carried out through Afghan Transit Trade.

The sources revealed that ‘Sheela Bagh’ check-post near Chaman border is among one of the burning spots where the smuggled goods are being transported to Quetta and then Karachi while the smuggled goods are also being loaded on the retrograde containers on returning from Afghanistan near ‘Waish’ Border.

They further disclosed that the smugglers have strong nexus with the security personnel of Frontier Constabulary (FC) and Customs officials at different check-posts and the biltee of smuggled consignments under the smugglers’ name is being cleared from different check-posts easily without any checking.

The sources claimed that 60per cent of smuggling would be curtailed, if strict surveillance and vigilance would be conducted at ‘Sheela Bagh check-post near Chaman Border. They further recommended the authorities concerned of FBR to form joint examination teams comprising of the personnel of Pakistan Customs, Coast Guards and Rangers at National Highway, RCD and Superhighway in order to eliminate smuggling of goods. They further said that the Quetta to Karachi Bus Terminal and Northern Bypass are two more “deliberately” vulnerable spots where the smuggled goods are easily coming into Karachi…

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