Posts Tagged ‘know your customer’

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Loans by text pay jihadists’ way to Syria

July 13, 2015

Swedish Islamists are taking out loans through text message services to join the battle in Syria.  They use the borrowed funds to buy plane tickets, cars and, presumably, other equipment when they arrive.  Sweden’s security agency says that a majority of fighters’ travels are debt-financed.  Thus the lenders are violating the first rule of lending:  character.  What kind of screening are these small lenders performing on their borrowers?  So much for knowing your customer.

From The Local on June 22 (h/t Moscow Ghost):

SMS loans fund Syria terror trips from Sweden

Sweden’s Security Service (Säpo) has warned that growing numbers of muslims are funding trips to Syria with money secured via text message loans secured in Sweden.

Investigators working for the security service told Sveriges Radio that there had been a rise in people taking trips to the Middle East to fight alongside terror organisations such as Isis (also known as IS) over the last year, with growing numbers of visits funded by loans taken out in Sweden.

Martin Frimansson, an expert on terrorist funding at Säpo, explained that while some Swedes had borrowed money from banks or using Swedish credit cards, others had paid for their travel using SMS loans (money borrowed via text message from private companies) or made their way to Syria and Iraq using cars rented in Sweden.

According to Frimansson, a “clear majority” of trips were made possible due to loans, although he did not give any specific figures.

He suggested that some Swedes were also taking out loans in order to raise their status within Isis or other terror groups.

“It could be that if you have a car and money…you automatically become a team leader. If you have no money when you arrive, no car or anything – then maybe you’ll be the ambulance driver,” he said.

By law, credit companies and banks are required to adhere to a range of measures designed to prevent the financing of terror activities, but according to Säpo the trend for Swedes borrowing money for suspect trips to the Middle East suggests that much more needs to be done.

The security service is calling on lenders to file reports on people who are failing to repay their loans more quickly and to be stricter about who they lend money to in the first place.

“They are the first hurdle to stopping terrorist financing. It is a big responsibility,” said Frimansson.

In April, Säpo told The Local there was “very little” it could do to stop people travelling to Syria to join al-Qaeda inspired groups, as EU officials estimated up to 6,000 people from across Europe have now fought in the war-torn nation.

It confirmed that at least 150 Swedish residents were known to have been to Syria or Iraq to fight for Isis or other extremist groups, with intelligence suggesting that at least 35 had died in the process.

Earlier this year, Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad also told Sweden’s tabloid newspaper Expressen that he believed some of “the most dangerous leaders of Daesh and Isis in our region are Scandinavian”…

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FinCEN pooh-poohs knowing your customer

December 15, 2014

A federal financial crime agency has issued a statement imploring banks to continue or resume doing business with money services businesses (MSB’s)—many of which are hawala companies—despite the risks of hawala financing domestic and international terrorism. FinCEN’s statement stems in large part from pressure brought to bear by Democratic politicians, Somali activists, and well-meaning but misguided international charities who believe that remittances are an effective channel for humanitarian relief to corruption-plagued hot zones abroad. These parties fail to understand that remittances are fuel to the fire in places like Somalia where remittances are siphoned off by al-Shabaab to perpetuate the cycle of violence and misery in that country.

In the statement, FinCEN even goes out of its way to instruct banks that they do “not need to know the MSB’s individual customers” to remain compliant with know-your-customer provisions of the Bank Secrecy Act. This instruction seems at odds with years of federal regulatory admonitions for banks to know their customers.

Financial crimes analyst Kenneth Rijock does a wonderful job picking apart FinCEN’s pronouncement, posing the following observations about MSBs:

  1. They are frequently used by both money launderers, and terrorist financiers. This is a sad fact of life; laundrymen know that many MSBs are storefront operations, poorly run, and who would consider  accepting dirty money, to earn a handsome profit.
  2. They exist in jurisdictions where regulatory agencies are either non-existent, or unable or unwilling to enforce AML/CFT laws. Therefore, the MSB has no reason to have an effective compliance program.
  3. They may be actually owned, or controlled by, criminal elements; Look at Mexico.
  4. They are not like licensed financial institutions, the licensing requirements are often minimal, and corrupt government agencies, once paid off, are usually eager to qualify individuals who are unacceptable as NBFI operators.
  5. If a client cannot go to a bank in his or her jurisdiction, to send larger amounts of funds, it is often because their dodgy business is not wanted at legitimate financial institutions.
  6. MSBs in many countries are known for dysfunctional AML programs. Can we really expect US banks, who are held to best practices standards, to risk accepting money from them ?

Read Rijock’s full analysis here.

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India’s currency change combats counterfeiting, but backdoor still wide open for money laundering

February 28, 2014

An email from our old friend Puneet aprised us to a new initiative in India to replace old currency notes with new notes with enhanced security features.

The reason for the change is speculated by many, including the BBC, to reduce the flow of black money (including undeclared, untaxed, counterfeit, and laundered money) through India’s economy.

Indeed, counterfeiting is a national crisis in India, and the new security features on the bills should help reduce the ability of counterfeiters to replicate the notes.

But in terms of getting illegally acquired but genuine notes off the street, this program doesn’t do much to cleanse the economy from the scourage of black money.

Live Mint points out that anybody who wants to exchange their old bills for new ones will be able to do so, and they won’t have to divulge their identities:

…If one looks at the RBI announcement, it is clear that the old currency notes can be exchanged for new ones at any bank branch from April to June 2014 without any questions being asked as to the name of the person giving the notes, her Permanent Account Number (PAN), address, etc. One can exchange the notes even at branches where one does not have a bank account. It is only after 30 June that one would have to give the name and PAN to exchange high denomination currency notes. Therefore, any person having undisclosed cash in her possession can easily exchange the old currency notes till June 2014 without disclosing her identity…

Also, Money Jihad notes that there doesn’t seem to be any provision in the new currency roll-out for bank tellers to report unusual amounts of cash that are brought in for exchange, or for them to report exchanges that they suspect are being made on behalf of undisclosed third parties.  Officials should move to incorporate such safeguards.

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Illicit transfer news: recommended reading

February 20, 2014
  • Palestinian Islamic Jihad “receives between $100-$150 million dollars annually from Iran,” says an Iranian expert… more>>
  • FinCEN shuts down a Michigan-based hawala dealer who sent 8,000 wires to Yemen and never checked a single customer’s ID… more>>
  • We don’t know how much money is financing terrorism, and we don’t know how much it costs to combat its financing either, so how do we know if what we’re doing is working?  More>>
  • A New Jersey company illegally shipped $70,000 worth of protective gloves to Iranmore>>
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Money jihad news: recommended reading

June 6, 2013
  • Al Qaeda and kidnapping kingpin Mokhtar Belmokhtar part ways.  Like most divorces, it’s about money… more>>
  • Ever noticed while doing Internet searches that several dubious entities yield page after page of strictly positive search results, with no negative coverage?  This isn’t just misleading—it’s a threat to the banking systemmore>>
  • Nidal Hasan has been paid $278,000 of your tax dollars since he killed 13 soldiers… more>>
  • Don’t want to help fuel the conflict in Syria? Then don’t buy Roman and Byzantine artifacts stolen from Syrian cemeteries and churches… more>>

 

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Word of the week: third party

May 22, 2013

The person making financial transactions for illicit purposes isn’t necessarily the person pulling the strings.  If you work for a money services business, you should try to ascertain if your customer is operating under instructions from a third party.  This guidance comes from Canada’s FinTRAC, but it’s useful information for anybody with know-your-customer responsibilities:

Find out if there is a third party

As a money services business (MSB), you have to find out if your client is acting on behalf of a third party when you:

  • conduct a large cash transaction and you have to keep a record of it
  • have to keep a record about a service agreement

Who is a third party?

A third party is anyone else who gave instructions to your client to request MSB services from you. It is not about who “owns” the money, but rather about who gives the instructions to deal with the money.

How to find out if there is a third party

Ask the individual in front of you if they are acting on someone else’s instructions. If the answer is yes, that someone else is a third party.

Examples of a third party:

  1. Tarek wants to send money to his son Roger in Lebanon. He gives his daughter Tara $13,000 in cash and asks her to go to the MSB to send the money. Tara gives the money to the MSB and requests that a money transfer be made to Roger in Lebanon. Tarek is the third party as he is the one who gave the instructions to Tara to request that a money transfer be made.
  2. Jacques, a financial officer and employee of Voyages Inc. in Canada, goes to the MSB every month to transfer money to their head office in France. Jacques’ employer, Voyages Inc., is the third party as Jacques is acting on his employer’s instructions.

Records to keep on a third party

You have to keep a record for five years after the day you created it, if you:

  • find out that there is a third party
  • suspect that there is a third party

You find out that there is a third party

If you find out that there is a third party involved, you have to keep a record with the following information about the third party:

  • name, address and job or main business
  • if it is an individual, their date of birth
  • if it is a corporation, their corporation number and place of incorporation
  • the nature of the relationship between the third party and:
    • the individual who gave you the cash if you are doing this because of a large cash transaction or
    • the organization entering into a service agreement.

Examples of how to describe the nature of the relationship include that the third party is your client’s accountant, agent, customer, employee, friend, legal counsel or relative.

You suspect that there is a third party

If you are not able to find out that there is a third party, but you suspect that there are instructions from a third party involved, you have to keep a record to indicate the following:

  • why you suspect the individual is acting on a third party’s instructions and in the case of a:
    • large cash transaction, whether or not the individual giving the cash indicated that the transaction was being conducted on behalf of a third party
    • service agreement, whether or not the client indicated that the agreement was being done on behalf of a third party
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Smuggling cash with foreign prepaid cards

April 15, 2013

ACAMS MoneyLaundering.com is reporting that while know-your-customer requirements and other safeguards are in place to prevent abuse of prepaid, reloadable cards obtained from American financial institutions, the freedom of foreign banks to issue such cards remains a potential area of terror finance vulnerability.

Here is an excerpt from MoneyLaundering.com’s featured article by Colby Adams on Apr. 9:

…Final rules issued by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) in July 2011 imposed anti-money laundering (AML) program duties on American providers and sellers of certain prepaid products, including customer identification, suspicious activity reporting and transactional recordkeeping requirements.

But reloadable cards that can be acquired in person or over the Internet from foreign financial institutions remain an immediate threat to the United States, according to a senior compliance officer at a major U.S. financial institution linked to the prepaid industry.

“The rules are way too focused on what’s leaving the United States—on bulk cash smuggling on a card,” said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “The giant elephant in the room is that the regulators aren’t checking what’s coming here, and that could mean trouble sooner rather than later.”

In such a scenario, a member of a terrorist organization living in a high-risk jurisdiction could purchase a network branded prepaid card from a non-U.S. bank with little trouble. Should the person travel to the United States, he or she could use the card to withdrawal money from any one of thousands of ATMs, or receive additional funds from another foreign-issued prepaid card holder

Why would Muhammad Atta need a SunTrust account if he could have just brought a preloaded payment card with him from Hamburg?  Especially when that card is branded with the familiar logo of Visa or Mastercard, such as this product being offered on the website of Cyprus-based Hellenic Bank:

https://www.hellenicbank.com/easyconsole.cfm/id/576#contentDisplay

Screenshot of foreign p-card promising anonymity and a Visa logo

So much for know-your-customer provisions when a bank in the EU is encouraging customer anonymity.  Moreover, Mr. Adams notes that “the Visa logo means that it can be used anywhere Visa is accepted – including ATMs.”