Posts Tagged ‘Bank Melli’

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Backstabbed: How Iraq helps Iran skirt sanctions

April 11, 2013

Nobody has been as good at tracking the painful truth of Iraqi-facilitated evasion of international sanctions on Iran as financial crime consultant Kenneth Rijock.  Consider:

  • The Kurds in northern Iraq have “allowed both rampant money laundering, and widespread facilitation of global Iran sanctions evasion” though their banks. In central Iraq, U.S. dollars are flowing in bulk from Baghdad to Iranmore>>
  • Lebanese banks and Bank Melli, a sanctioned Iranian bank, are operating in northern Iraq.  EU and North American businesses that use Lebanese banks may not be taking sufficient steps to prevent their transactions from benefiting Iranian end-users… more>>
  • “Iraq blatantly disregards UN sanctions on Iran” in accepting an Iranian-flagged vessel‘s shipment at its Um Qasr port, for example… more>>
  • Five Turkish banks in Iraq may be facilitating Iran’s sanction dodging behavior… more>>
  • Iran will reap $16 billion annually from a new natural gas deal with Iraq… more>>

Reading about the dangerous anti-money laundering (AML) and combating the financing of terrorism (CFT) policies of Iraq may be upsetting to those who have made personal sacrifices fighting for Iraqi freedom, but we have to face the current facts.  How does Rijock describe the Iraq invasion?  “Military success, yes; but AML/CFT utter failure.”

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Sharia banks that fund terrorism

January 7, 2013

The connections between ethical finance and violent extremism

The relationship is simple.  Jihadists know they can trust sharia-compliant banks to maintain their anonymity, not ask too many questions, and facilitate high-dollar transactions on behalf of their terrorist groups.  Some Islamic financial institutions, such as National Commercial Bank and Islami Bank Bangladesh, have taken the relationship a step farther by donating a portion of their bank profits in the form of zakat as an act of corporate “charity” to terrorist organizations, or in the case of Al Rajhi, through private zakat donations of leading bankers.  Saudi Arabia and Iran are key bases for these activities, but this is a global phenomenon.  Here’s Money Jihad’s short list of the worst offenders:

Al Rajhi Bank:  The Saudi financial institution has served as the sharia bank of choice for the world’s jihadists, including East Africa embassy bomber Mamduh Mahmud Salim, Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, and organizations like Indonesian Kompak and Al-Haramain.  Bank co-founder Sulaiman Al-Rajhi appeared on the infamous Golden Chain document of Al Qaeda financiers.  These allegations were reinforced by the recent U.S. Senate investigation into HSBC’s correspondent relationships.

Al Shamal Islamic Bank:  Osama Bin Laden co-founded the Al Shamal in Sudan and invested $50 million there.  During the 1990s and early 2000s, Al Qaeda distributed money to its cells through Al Shamal.  Funds passed through Al Shamal were used in preparation for terrorist attacks.

National Commercial Bank:  Offering conventional and sharia banking services, Saudi Arabia’s self-described first, largest, and most prominent bank is NCB.  Among other misdeeds, a Saudi audit revealed that NCB transferred $74 million in the 1990s as zakat through its charitable front organizations to Al Qaeda (see here, here, and here).  Khalid bin Mahfouz, the head of the bank, exploited libel laws to sue author Rachel Ehrenfeld in an effort to silence accusations about his role in financing terrorism.

Arab Bank:  This conventional bank in Jordan maintains a wholly-owned subsidiary (Islamic International Arab Bank PLC) that offers full-range sharia services.  Arab Bank has transferred money on behalf of Comité de Bienfaisance et de Secours aux Palestiniens (CBSP), a notorious French charity, to a known financial subunit of Hamas.  The Jordanian bank has paid out insurance benefits to families of suicide bombers for the Saudi Committee—another charity that funds Hamas.  Arab Bank has handled transactions for the Holy Land Foundation, whose leaders now sit behind bars for financing terrorism.  It has been the subject of American investigations, but the bank has consistently refused to turn over related documents to the U.S.

Islami Bank Bangladesh Limited:  IBBL, Bangladesh’s biggest sharia bank, has handled Wahhabi accounts to propagate radical Islam since its inception.  In 2011, the Bangladeshi home ministry intelligence revealed that 8 percent of the bank’s profits were diverted as corporate zakat to support jihad in Bangladesh.  One of the men on IBBL’s board of sharia advisors was arrested in connection with a terrorist attack against Bangladeshi police officers.  The U.S. Senate slammed British bank giant HSBC for maintaining relationships with IBBL despite evidence that it served terrorists like Shaikh Abdur Rahman of Jamatul Mujahideen Bangladesh and terror-funding Islamic charities like IIRO.  The Senate’s report also implicated HSBC for disregarding evidence of terror financing at another Bangladeshi sharia bank with whom it worked:  Social Islami Bank.

Bank Melli:  The Iranian Islamic bank sent “at least $100 million to an Iranian Revolutionary Guard branch that supports Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and other terrorist groups, the Quds Force” between 2002-06.

Bank Saderat:  Another major Iranian sharia finance house, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned the rocket-funding Bank Saderat, stating that “The bank is used by the Government of Iran to transfer money to terrorist organizations, including Hizballah, Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. A notable example of this is a Hizballah-controlled organization that has received $50 million directly from Iran through Bank Saderat since 2001.”

Other culprits include Dubai Islamic Bank, which is active in both the U.A.E. and Pakistan, and Tadamon Islamic Bank.

So much for “ethical finance.”  For further developments, please continue reading Money Jihad, Shariah Finance Watch, and @moneyjihad on Twitter.

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Time Magazine goes to bat for batty bill

February 4, 2010

Ken Stier at Time Magazine has written an illogical piece of “journalism,” that reads like a lobbyist’s brief in behalf of S. 569, Carl Levin’s “incorporation transparency” bill that would supposedly help control terrorist financing.

Stier starts off his article by suggesting that nobody knew and no action could be taken against the Iran’s shell Alavi Foundation (which owns property in the United States to help funnel money back into Iran’s nuclear program) because we lack a law such as the one proposed by Levin.  But Rachel Ehrenfeld has been writing for years about the failure to crackdown against the Alavi Foundation.  The nature of its ownership was not unknown.  The delay in action against Alavi was a failure of reluctant law enforcement, not a failure of existing federal law.

From Time:

Managers of an Iranian charity started by the Shah faced a dilemma with its American properties, as Washington tightened a squeeze on all entities tied to the Islamic Revolutionary Government. But U.S. law allowed a simple solution for the renamed Alavi Foundation: disguise its properties’ real owners through the use of shell companies, multiple ones if need be.

So, its 36-story skyscraper in midtown Manhattan, registered as the 650 Fifth Avenue Company, was owned by Assa Corporation, a New York shell company, which listed its owner as Assa Company Ltd., a Jersey, Channel Islands entity. In most cases that’s as far as investigators get — but here authorities were eventually able to determine that Assa was in fact entirely owned by the state-owned Bank Melli, which is banned in the U.S. for supporting Tehran’s nuclear program.

Exposing this entirely legal labyrinth of ownership took years of interagency pick-and-ax work. In the end it demonstrated how nefarious activity — even as high profile as this — can go on for years, right under authorities’ noses. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Tightening the nuke noose? Lloyds fined for helping Iranian banks evade sanctions

January 4, 2010

Over the holidays, the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control announced a settlement with Lloyds Banking Group for its role in channeling Iranian money through American banks.  (Or as one commenter put it, “English whorehouse Lloyds TSB Bank settles out of court.”)

Here’s how it worked:  banks in Iran, Libya, and the Sudan held accounts with Lloyds.  Then Lloyds allowed money from those accounts to be wired or transferred through U.S. financial institutions after stripping identifying information such as bank names, customer names, and addresses.

Naturally, Lloyds knew who their own clients were, and they knew they weren’t supposed to allow transactions through the U.S., which is why they stripped the information from the transactions.

Lloyds clients include:

  • Bank Melli, Iran
  • Bank Saderat, Iran
  • Bank Sepah, Iran
  • National Bank of Khartoum, Sudan

In allowing these transactions to take place, Lloyds violated the U.S. International Emergency Economic Powers Act.  The money may have benefited terrorism or furthered Iranian nuclear ambitions.  How?  For one thing, once the money was transferred, it could be put into the coffers of front companies to pay for “goods and services” (such as sensitive weapons, technologies, or other materials).

As I noted in my review of Out of the Ashes, a powerful case can be made against the effectiveness of economic sanctions on Middle Eastern dictatorships.  The news that major financial institutions such as Lloyds have allowed for the circumvention of the sanctions regime casts doubts on both the strategy behind the sanctions and the how the sanctions are being administered.

But, congratulations are in order for the New York DA’s office and OFAC for uncovering and penalizing the activity, and for making our sanctions regime slightly less sieve-like.