Posts Tagged ‘FATF’

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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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Islamic terror money: recommended reading

March 19, 2015
  • The U.K. has only frozen the bank accounts of 1 percent of British jihadists fighting for ISISmore>>
  • In response to the $655 million judgment against it, the PLO said “We will appeal.” Then the PLO blamed American victims of terrorism for having traveled to the Middle East in the first place… more>>
  • It was excluded from one list of threats to the U.S., but sanctions against Hezbollah remain in effect, 100 percent… more>>
  • International financial watchdog:  ISIS‘s “primary source of income comes from the territory it occupies”… more>>
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This Valentine’s Day, give her diamonds. (Money is easier to launder that way.)

February 14, 2014

International financial watchdog FATF has issued a report that raises concerns about the use of diamonds to launder money in five countries that voluntarily disclosed information for the report.

India cited cases of overvaluation of diamonds sold abroad as a means of transferring illicit money back to India.  Trade-based money laundering is one of, if not the largest mechanism worldwide for transferring value without being detected.

As John Cassara and Avi Jorisch have noted in their book, On the Trail of Terror Finance, “diamonds are the most condensed form of physical wealth in the world. As a result, they are widely used in global laundering and value transfer schemes.”

Cassara and Jorisch also noted that Dubai, which maintains significant business relationships with diamond dealers in Mumbai, India, “are adept at invoice manipulation,” which Dubai traders can use to transfer significant amounts of value without transferring physical money.

Thanks to Sal Imburgia for first notifying Money Jihad about the report.

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Pakistan scrambles to get off FATF’s gray list

September 16, 2013

The world’s leading financial standards body, FATF, alerted the international community earlier this summer that Pakistan and 11 other countries have failed to make sufficient progress in preventing money laundering and terrorist financing.

The newspaper Pakistan Today notes that if Pakistan fails in “coming up with proper and combating the financing of terrorism and anti-money laundering legislations the country may face severe financial sanctions that may affect its financial deals with the World bank, the Asian Development Bank and other top financial institutions” (h/t Zia Ur Rehman).  Pakistan should make reforms prior to FATF’s next meeting in October to avoid such sanctions.

Not so coincidentally, Pakistan’s central bank has rolled out a new requirement for Pakistani financial institutions to adopt nationwide software by Sept. 30 that will facilitate the filing of suspicious activity reports by bank employees.  When a certain customer or transaction is regarded as suspicious, the financial institutions would use this software to report their observations back to the central bank.

Anybody familiar with new software deployments, even under the best circumstances in well-developed high-tech nations, will recognize that this is an overly ambitious timetable to for implementation.  Widespread training and adoption of the software is unlikely to be complete by FATF’s deadline, but the stated goal may be enough to persuade FATF that Pakistan is moving in the right direction.

Pakistan has been cited before by the Financial Action Task Force for its financial regulatory deficiencies.  Despite the history of shortcomings, Western nations have continued to saturate Pakistan with foreign aid.  Without adequate money laundering an CFT controls in place, there is a high risk of any such military and development aid being abused by malicious actors without fear of detection or prosecution.

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FATF’s terrorist charity typologies

July 9, 2013

The Financial Action Task Force, an international financial watchdog, has updated its “Recommendation 8” pertaining to government oversight of nonprofit organizations.  (Thanks to Arye Glozman who sent in a link to the report).

Overall, the revised recommendations show greater deference to the nonprofit sector and urge restraint by governments in regulating charities than the 2002 version.  This deference is a bit strange considering that using charities as vessels for funding terrorism has not decreased since 2002 then, neither in the West as illustrated by organizations such as the Holy Land Foundation and WAMY Canada, nor in the Middle East and Northern Africa where Gulf-based charities have played a central role in funding and arming Islamist rebels of the Arab Spring.

That being said, the FATF report does present a useful set of typologies to categorize four different types of terrorist “misuse” of nonprofit groups:

  1. Front charities, where everybody from the donors to the charity workers to the beneficiaries knows that the charity is a sham designed to fund terrorism.
  2. Organizations defrauding donors by telling them the money is going toward legitimate programs but then redirect the proceeds to terrorism.
  3. Branch offices of charities defrauding headquarters by misleading the leadership about the branch’s actual programs.
  4. Charity workers abusing their positions to distribute aid to militants.

The “charities” used by Osama bin Laden to funnel money from wealthy Saudi donors to Al Qaeda in the 1990s are a good example of type #1.  Jamaat-ud-Dawa in Pakistan is a good example of a front charity today, with donors and recipients understanding that the money is really for the Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist group.  Many analysts would probably say that the Holy Land Foundation fell into type #2, with donors unwittingly funding Hamas (although some donors knew that their zakat was funding “resistance” against Israel).  Islamic Relief Worldwide can be associated with types #3 and #4 by having a branch office in Gaza that passed money along to Hamas, allegedly without the knowledge of headquarters in England.

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Black money news: recommended reading

March 8, 2013

• Jiminy cricket! Our friend El Grillo says a “Stockholm suicide bomber falsely claimed student loans to fund his terrorist activity.”  The latest case of debt financing the jihadmore>>

• The good news is that Indian financial institutions are getting better about filing suspicious transaction reports. The bad news is that it makes it look like India has experienced a 300 percent increase in terrorist financing activity since last year.  Maybe they have… more>>

• Which way is the wind blowing?  Towards Iran.  Just ask Europe about its renewable energy sanctions waiver for Iranian wind power.  Thanks to Willauer Prosky for sending this in… more>>

• International financial watchdog FATF is supposed to counter the financing of terrorism. But lately it seems more focused on getting countries to pass meaningless laws and high-fiving itself… more from Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld>>

Money Jihad has covered the illicit wildlife trade, particularly in cheetahs by rich Arab buyers. But even we didn’t know how extensive the cheetah market has become in Dubai.  No reporting yet on how the smugglers use the revenues… more>>

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Bangladesh overwhelmed by the financial jihad

November 26, 2012

Bangladesh continues to teach the world more and more about the collusion between Islamic sharia financial institutions and terrorist organizations.

First there was the revelation that IBBL uses zakat to fund terrorists.  Then there was the U.S. Senate’s damaging report about HSBC last summer which highlighted the British bank’s relationships with IBBL and another sinister sharia bank in Bangladesh, the Social Islami Bank Limited.

The revelations probably had something to do with FATF issuing a warning to Bangladesh to clean up its act and tighten the screws on terror financing.  The government of Bangladesh is indeed trying to, but the jihadi swamp there is so foul, and sharia banking is so dominant over conventional banking, that one wonders if the swamp can ever be drained.

This informative November article from the Eurasia Review provides some excellent background on the last 20 years of terrorist financing in Bangladesh and how the country wound up in its current stew with FATF:

Bangladesh: Banking For Terror – Analysis

By: SATP
November 12, 2012

By Sanchita Bhattacharya

In what seems a logical culmination of events, Bangladesh has been given time until February 2013 to address deficiencies in its fight against money-laundering and terror-financing to avert black-listing by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF)…

…[T]he U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigation, in its July 17, 2012, report titled U.S. Vulnerabilities to Money Laundering, Drugs and Terrorist Financing: HSBC Case History, disclosed that two Bangladesh-based banks, Islami Bank Bangladesh Limited (IBBL) and Social Islami Bank Limited (SIBL) were involved in terror financing. Regarding the functioning of HSBC, it was mentioned that the bank acted as a financier to clients seeking to route funds from countries like Mexico, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, North Korea, Cuba, Sudan, Myanmar, Japan and Russia. The report also stated that the HSBC supplied dollars to IBBL and SIBL, ignoring evidence of their links to terror financing. HSBC did not submit these two banks to enhanced monitoring for suspicious transactions, despite recommendation by HSBC’s own Financial Intelligence Group (FIG).

According to the document, SIBL’s ownership stakes were held by two Saudi Arabia based non-governmental organizations (NGOs): the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO) – implicated in terrorist financing by the U.S. administration and included on the list of those prohibited to do business in the country; and Lajnat-al-Birr-al-Islam (Benevolence International Foundation, BIF), one of al Qaeda’s financers.

It was noted, further, that Saudi Arabia’s Al Rajhi Bank, also engaged in suspicious transaction, had a 37 per cent ownership in IBBL. HSBC also had maintained an association with Al Rajhi, a member of al Qaeda’s “Golden Chain” – a list including at least 20 top Saudi and Gulf States’ financial sponsors of al Qaeda, including bankers, businessmen, and former ministers.

The U.S. report on terror financing was not a recent finding. Since 9/11, the U.S. has taken strong steps to halt the flow of funds to terrorist organizations under Executive Order 13224 and related elements of the USA Patriotic Act.

The exposure of the unholy nexus between banking establishments and terrorist activities in Bangladesh can be traced back to the watershed country-wide serial bomb blasts on August 17, 2005. 459 explosions had been orchestrated in 63 of the country’s 64 Districts (excluding Munshiganj), killing three persons and injuring 100 others, on that date. After the serial blasts, which were orchestrated by the Jamaat ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), the role of IBBL in promoting religious terror was brought under scrutiny, when Bangladesh Home Ministry constituted a committee to investigate terror financing. Subsequent to the arrest of the JMB ‘chief’ Shaikh Abdur Rahman and his second in command Siddiqui Islam alias Bangla Bhai, and the subsequent seizure of some banking documents, the investigation team documented suspicious transactions with IBBL branches in Sylhet, Gazipur and Savar, where violations of the Anti-Money Laundering Act were noticed. The Act which came into existence in 2002 was last amended on June 20, 2011. Rahman and Bangla Bhai were also found to have accounts with IBBL. The two were eventually hanged on March 30, 2007 – Rahman in Comilla Jail and Bangla Bhai in Mymensingh Prison.

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