Posts Tagged ‘cash smuggling’

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Turkey guts cash screening at customs

May 18, 2015

Turkey has revised its customs regulations to the point where one Turkish headline described it as “Unlimited cash entry into Turkey now legalized.” Turkey said the regulations are an improvement compared to the old policy, but experts contacted by Al-Monitor said there was nothing wrong with the previous regulations.

What’s so problematic about this development is that Turkey has been used as a key transit point for money and fighters for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. And that was when there were at least some nominal controls at customs points. Now it appears to be open season.

The other rotten element of this story is that Turkey appears to have waited to change these regulations until just after they came off of the international financial watchdog FATF’s grey list. It’s as though they knew they couldn’t get de-listed with regulations like these, so the bided their time.

Read all about it (h/t @moscow_ghost):

No questions asked about Turkey’s suitcases full of cash

Author Pinar Tremblay Posted May 14, 2015

The Turkish Ministry of Customs and Trade issued new regulations April 15 for entering and leaving Turkey with any amount of cash. The new Customs Code had passed without much public attention until early May, when the news broke with the headlines “Hot money days are over, now starts the black money days” and “Unlimited cash entry into Turkey now legalized.”

Umut Oran, deputy of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), submitted a parliamentarian query asking why the previous Customs Code was replaced with the new code, which would enable suspicious financial transactions, thus increasing the risk for money laundering, terror financing and tax evasion.

In a rather foggy statement, Minister of Customs and Trade Nurettin Canikli said the previous code was unclear, adding there were contradictory clauses in the code, and customs personnel could not be flexible. He said they had only simplified the code. “We had many complaints from exporters bringing money into the country,” Canikli said. “It could be from various countries, such as Iran, Iraq, Syria, the Balkans, where there are no banking services. Frankly, why does it matter if the money comes in cash or through a bank as long as it is money earned from exports? If this is dirty money, it will not be allowed to enter the country. There are no changes with regard to unrecorded cash.”

Yet, all pundits whom Al-Monitor contacted — bankers, customs officials, economists, senior economy editors of reputable news networks — agreed that the vagueness was introduced with the new code, and none were able to see what was wrong with the old code.

The previous Customs Code, which was six pages, was seen as compatible with EU regulations. When questioned about the compatibility of the 2015 codes with the EU, Canikli said, “We are not a member of the EU, we are Turkey.”

Indeed, there is sufficient reason to worry about the 2015 Customs Code, which is two pages shorter than the 2013 version. Yet, with those two deleted pages are red flags. Turkey has been on the gray list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) since 2011. The FATF took Turkey off its list of high-risk and non-cooperative jurisdictions only in October 2014. Turkey came to the brink of suspension of its membership in the FATF in October 2012. In its latest report, the FATF was still concerned with Turkey’s ability to institute a system that would identify and freeze terrorist assets. The report warned about Turkey’s definitions for “terrorism financing” and stated that Turkey’s procedures for freezing the assets of identified groups were too slow.

Emin Capa, CNN Turk’s senior economy editor, told Al-Monitor, “Turkey worked real hard to get off the gray list of the FATF. I doubt the government would enact any legislation that would reverse the decision.” Yet Capa had serious concerns about the new code. “There are three troubling topics. First, the sentence ‘passenger cannot be compelled to make a declaration at customs.’ What does this mean?” he asked. This line was added to the updated 2015 Customs Code, while many other items were excised. This line is indeed contradictory with the inspection regime…

 

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ISIS money man describes 6-figure cash smuggling

May 4, 2015

Abu Hajjar, a high-ranking leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), has explains how he distributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to ISIS fighters in a recent interview with BBC Two.  Abu Hajjar also addresses what he calls the Islamic State’s principal source of revenue:  the taxation of businesses and commerce in the areas under ISIS’s control.  He concludes that ISIS will never run out of money as long as businesses are still operating in Iraq.

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Money and plots: suggested news reading

March 12, 2015
  • German police raid a mosque before a terror cell could meet with arms dealers in Bremen… more>>
  • Lajnat al Daawa al Islamiyya, a Kuwait-based charity designated by the U.S. and UN as a terrorist entity, was a donor to the Islamic Society of Boston mosque in Cambridge where the Tsarnaev brothers worshipped… more>>
  • Two terrorist facilitators scam £150,000 from an elderly Englishman to fund jihad in Syriamore>>
  • Authorities have frozen its bank account of CAGE, a Muslim-British advocacy group that defends terrorists, but CAGE is still fundraising… more>>
  • A Yemeni bound for Qatar with £500,000 cash hidden in his luggage tells JFK airport authorities the money was for his “really big family”… more>>
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The $20,000 behind the Paris attacks came “from abroad”

January 14, 2015

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 according to CBS News yesterday (h/t El Grillo), which supports Money Jihad analysis of the Kouachis’ funding earlier this week. The report also adds credibility to claims by AQAP and Cherif Kouachi himself that the Charlie Hebdo attacks were planned, ordered, and financed by AQAP itself. The physical transfer of funds to Kouachi suggests that bulk cash smuggling (or the smuggling of other financial instruments) back to Europe was the method used rather than a wire, hawala transaction, or trade-based money laundering operation.

Relatedly, the Associated Press reported weapons for the Paris terrorist attacks came from abroad:

Several people are being sought in relation to the “substantial” financing of the three gunmen behind the terror campaign, said Christophe Crepin, a French police union official. The gunmen’s weapons stockpile came from abroad, and the size of it plus the military sophistication of the attacks indicated an organized terror network, he added.

“This cell did not include just those three, we think with all seriousness that they had accomplices, because of the weaponry, the logistics and the costs of it,” Crepin said. “These are heavy weapons. When I talk about things like a rocket launcher – it’s not like buying a baguette on the corner, it’s for targeted acts.”

The Belgian daily La Dernière Heure corroborates that several of the weapons acquired by the Kouachi brothers and Amedy Coulibaly were bought in Brussels.

The $20,000 figure reported by CBS is also consistent with an estimate over the weekend from counterterror expert Jean-Paul Rouiller. Bloomberg Businessweek reported:

…The Kalashnikov rifles and other weapons used by the attackers, Chérif and Saïd Kouachi and Amedy Coulibaly, likely cost less than €10,000 ($11,800), according to Jean-Paul Rouiller, director of the Geneva Centre for Training and Analysis of Terrorism, a Swiss research group. Including the cost of Saïd Kouachi’s 2011 trip to Yemen, where he may have received training from al-Qaeda, the total price tag for the deadly attacks by the three men might have reached about $20,000…

Bloomberg went on to report that, “for what Rouiller describes as ‘such a low-cost operation,’ financing from abroad would be unlikely”—a theory that now seems to have been disproved by the evidence.

Regardless of where it is finally determined that the funds for the weapons originated, it should be kept in mind that the direct expenses of the Kouachi brothers and Amedy Coulibaly aren’t the only expenditures that matter. The weapons training camp in Yemen that both Kouachi brothers attended in 2011 wasn’t “self-financed” by individual AQAP recruits. The militants at the AQAP camp that trained the Kouachi brothers didn’t self-finance their own wages. The human smuggling network that helped sneak the Kouachi brothers across the border from Oman into Yemen isn’t self-financed. Anwar al-Awlaki, the terrorist imam with whom the Kouachi brothers met while in Yemen and possibly assigned them their marching orders, was not self-financed either. Not to mention that the Kouachi brothers’ basic cost of living in Paris probably wasn’t met by part-time work delivering pizzas and gutting fish at the market.

We will also discover over time that the websites, texts, and videos that the Kouachis and Coulibaly consumed, like most Islamic radical materials, are generally produced by entities backed by Wahhabi patrons. It is important to think of the bigger picture not just of the money it took to carry out the Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher operations, but the amount of money it takes to sustain a terrorist infrastructure in Yemen (and beyond) that these sleeper cells count on for arms, training and guidance.

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New moves afoot to choke off terror money

November 7, 2014
  • The U.S. takes aim at ISIS’s black market oil buyers… more>>
  • Britain grants more powers to its charity regulator, including the power to remove dubious trustees from charitable boards (h/t @ConorMLarkin)… more>>
  • Austrian law will ban foreign funding of imams… more>>
  • The U.S. Rewards for Justice program of paying informants is still helping catch and kill terrorists… more>>
  • Bulk cash smugglers beware–there’s a new system to detect the presence of excessive currency at border checkpoints… more>>
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How Hamas skirts sanctions to fund terror ops

August 8, 2014

Since Western banks won’t work with Hamas, the terrorist organization has developed several methods of accessing cash: trade-based money laundering by getting foreign suppliers to under-invoice them for imports, bulk cash smuggling from Jordan, taking advantage of diplomatic pouch immunity to launder money through consulates, manufacturing counterfeit medicine, and crooked real estate deals.

Excerpts from a recent Worldcrunch article follow:

Financing Hamas: How Cash Gets In The Wrong Hands In Gaza

Tomer Ganon (2014-07-28)

…Smuggling of money by traders is a relatively simple example for the tactics the Hamas leadership has developed to funnel money to the organization in Gaza, the West Bank and inside Israel, as Israeli banks have refused to allow money transactions to and from Gaza fearing it will be used for funding terrorism.

These tactics have become increasingly sophisticated since 2010, a recent report from the Israel Money Laundering and Terror Financing Prohibition Authority (IMPA) found…

Another method for financing terror that IMPA had identified in past years is international commerce. According to one of its studies, terrorist elements have been using various business owners and traders for illicit fund transfers to Gaza.

This tactic, uncovered in 2008, has led to the indictment of two Israeli firms that traded foodstuff and customs representation. This is how it worked: Hamas leadership buys different goods, mostly basic food items, abroad for very low prices or even for free. It then employs straw men to contract a private company to import the goods to Israeli ports and then transfer them to the Palestinian territories. A local distributor, who is in fact a Hamas operative, receives the shipment and later sells the goods. The high revenues, thanks to the large profit margins, then go to terrorists’ coffers.

An additional pattern the IMPA study discovered was the use of accounts owned by diplomatic missions. Financial statements of an unidentified embassy, received by the agency, revealed a large number of transfers from its account to various elements in the Palestinian Authority, including those in Gaza.

An analysis has shown that one beneficiary was an entity suspected in facilitating money transfers to Hamas. IMPA believes the embassy’s transactions were made innocently, in what looked to be legitimate payments, without it being aware it could be aiding terror.

These tactics were identified by IMPA in the course of a review of financial transactions reporting as required by standing regulations. However, authorities are also looking elsewhere, including an emerging source of funding for terrorism in criminal activity, such as drug trade and the manufacture of counterfeit pharmaceuticals — activities that obviously go unreported, and whose extent is unknown.

According to sources in the enforcement authorities, it’s a simple equation. Drugs and fake medicine sold in Israel are often distributed by elements related to terrorist organizations such as Hamas and the Islamic Jihad

The article doesn’t touch on state sponsorship and weapons supplied to Hamas by Iran and Qatar, which is of course the bigger factor behind Hamas’s operations.  But for spare change the above tactics work quite well for Gaza’s terrorists.

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UK probes aid to Al Qaeda-linked Syrian rebels

August 18, 2013

A Islamist group called “Aid Convoy” is being investigated by police and the UK Charity Commission for arranging aid for jihadists in Syria.  Part of the plot, a bulk cash smuggling scheme, has already been foiled:  “A Kent police spokeswoman confirmed officers seized three sums of cash worth £36,066, 10,600 dollars (£6,934) and 1,400 euros (£1,216) from a group of men at Dover who were on their way to the Middle East.”

A group of Aid Convoy supporters was allowed to travel overseas anyway.  Thanks to El Grillo for sending this in from The Sunday Times:

British aid charity in ‘terror’ inquiry

Dipesh Gadher Published: 4 August 2013

POLICE are investigating a British charity amid fears that extremists in the UK are channelling money to fighters in Syria who are backed by al-Qaeda.

Officers launched their inquiry after seizing tens of thousands of pounds in cash at Dover from a group of Muslim men on their way to the Middle East. They were travelling on behalf of a charity called Aid Convoy. Its trustees include a British-based Syrian who was accused — but later acquitted — of involvement with the Madrid train bombers who killed 191 people.

The Sunday Times has learnt that supporters of Aid Convoy have previously been stopped and questioned at Folkestone under anti-terrorism laws before being allowed to continue their journey abroad.

Other individuals linked to Aid Convoy include a radical cleric who allegedly praised the 9/11 attacks in front of children and an extremist who set fire to giant poppies on Armistice Day…

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