Posts Tagged ‘money laundering’

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Shin Bet busts Hamas cell’s gold scheme

July 7, 2015

Forty members of a Hamas cell in Nablus, Israel, have been arrested by Israel’s domestic security service.  Shin Bet found the equivalent of $1 million in cash and gold during their raid on the cell.  Hamas operatives intended to buy night vision goggles and other equipment to terrorize Jews.  From The Times of Israel on Jul. 1 (hat tip to El Grillo):

Large, gold-funded Hamas cell uncovered in West Bank, Shin Bet says
Israel’s security agency breaks a 40-strong cell in the Nablus region, foiling a terror attack in the making

Israel’s domestic security service said Wednesday it had revealed and arrested members of a 40-person Hamas cell in the Nablus region of the West Bank, foiling an attack still in the planning stage and breaking apart a community-wide infrastructure.

The arrests, conducted over the past months, were made public amid a rise in terror attacks against Israelis in the West Bank and corresponding calls from settlers to increase the Israeli army’s preventative actions in the region.

Over the past 10 days there have been four shootings and two stabbings, claiming the lives of Israelis Danny Gonen and Malachi Rosenfeld and wounding several more.

The Shin Bet said the Nablus cells were run from Qatar, by Hussam Badran, a Hamas spokesperson and a native of Nablus.

Budran, operating under Saleh al-Arouri, the Turkey-based head of Hamas operations in the West Bank, sent messages to the operatives in Nablus via “email channels,” the Shin Bet said, apparently referring to non-direct messages, and laundered the money into gold jewelry transported into the West Bank from Jordan.

Anan Fatuah and Samih Aliwi, West Bank shop-owners, allegedly received cash from a Nablus couple that had traveled to Jordan for medical care but were, in fact, a forward unit of Hamas. The couple, Bassam and Mona Sayih, allegedly transferred the funds to Fatuah, who bought gold in Jordan and sold it along with Aliwi in their shop, funneling the money to Hamas operatives.

The Shin Bet and police said they found NIS four million (roughly one million dollars) in cash and gold during the arrests.

The 40-person infrastructure engaged in a wide range of activity, from education to media to charity, and was in the process of planning a terror attack.

Two of the arrested, Anas Abbas and Taufiq Sualmeh, admitted under questioning to planning a terror attack and buying night vision goggles to further the execution of that plan. They allegedly were in contact with operatives from Ahmad Jibril’s PFLP-GC terror organization in Syria…

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Stashes and sanctions: suggested news reading

May 28, 2015
  • ISIS financier killed in raid; documents seized… more>>
  • Danish jihadists receive 400,000 crowns in welfare benefits, and counting… more>>
  • Iraq faced sanctions for years thanks to Saddam. Now it faces sanctions again thanks to an Iraqi airline helping Iran evade its sanctions… more>>
  • Spain busts up a Chinese money laundering operation that helps illustrate how “smurfing” works… more>>
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Crime, sport, and jihad: suggested news reading

January 22, 2015
  • The feds have fined MoneyGram’s former chief compliance officer personally for $1 million for “willful” anti-money laundering failuresmore>>
  • U.S. blacklists soccer team due to drug trafficking by its owner… more>>
  • Citing “extremist” links, Britain ends taxpayer grants to the Muslim Charities Forummore>>
  • Human trafficking has become a standard business practice for terrorist groups… more>>
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Clandestine money news: recommended reading

October 9, 2014
  • Qatar is arming the revolutionary Islamist militia known as “Libya Dawn”… more>>
  • The international watchdog Financial Action Task Force finds that soccer and money laundering are a perfect match for each other… more>>
  • Arab Bank wasn’t the only financial institution funding Hamas.  Enter National Westminster Bank… more>>
  • How ISIS’s antiquities smuggling and the Islamic khums tax finance the blood-letting in Iraq and Syria… more>>
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Terror finance & AML news: suggested reading

June 13, 2014
  • The Washington Post cites the “well versed” Money Jihad blog and its analysis of the world’s richest terrorist groups when sizing up ISIS’s new found wealth after its multi-million dollar seizure of the Mosul central bank… more>>
  • Given the Palestinian Authority’s new unity government with Hamas, Israel wants U.S. foreign aid to the Palestinian Authority to cease. Congress is one step ahead… more>>
  • A U.S. court decision leaves the door open to testimony from a key Israeli terror finance witness in the Bank of China case… more>>
  • Hers was a love for laundering drug money from Florida to Mexico, yet a judge saw fit to dismiss her indictment after she pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor. Some deterrent… more>>
  • Saudi Arabia is imposing financial sanctions against Hezbollah, its supporters, and its front businesses operating in the Kingdom… more>>

 

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Passport fraud poses terror finance threat

April 1, 2014

The presence of two Iranians with stolen passports on the ill-fated Malaysian Airlines flight 370 highlighted the ease with which foreign nationals from state sponsors of terrorism can fly with a false identity and gain entry to a NATO country.

Although the men may not have been responsible for the plane crash, the situation raises the question of how often passports are stolen or forged and what threats this presents to the criminals’ purported country of origin.

Interpol says that only three countries in the world screen air passengers against Interpol’s database of stolen passports.  Phony passports are a big problem too.  Earlier this month, customs officials in Dubai seized 52 fake passports on the way into the U.A.E.

In 2010, ABC News reported, “A decade after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks brought to light the dangers of fake IDs, federal undercover agents are still able to easily obtain genuine U.S. e-Passports using clearly fraudulent information that should have raised red flags at the State Department.”  The Government Accountability Office had confirmed previously that obtaining a real passport using fake identification could be done “easily.”  More recently, the Daily Mail reported that fake passports can be purchased through the online Silk Road black market.

Benefits of a fraudulent passport

Individuals can carry out many activities with a fraudulent passport other than boarding a plane.  They can set up bank accounts and apply for credit cards, like one eastern European mob boss did in Canterbury—accounts which he used “to rip off casinos, high street stores, petrol stations and banks.”  Hackers can also set up bank accounts in the U.S. from overseas using false passports, and use those accounts as repositories for money obtained as the result of malware attacks, as a case from a few years ago demonstrated.

Basically, obtaining a fraudulent passport allows malicious actors to “buy citizenship” in a target country.  The Telegraph reported this month that a Bulgarian passport can be purchased underground for £150,000, which enables the buyer to pose as a European Union citizen, even if he or she has a criminal record, and become eligible for government services and public benefits.

PBS’s Frontline has reported that Al Qaeda uses counterfeit passports and has conducted passport forgery workshops “to travel internationally in order to raise funds, recruit operatives, train the operatives in Afghanistan and send them out to plan and conduct terrorist attacks.”

False identities also complicate law enforcement’s efforts to investigate crime.  The CBC recently highlighted the threat of “synthetic ID fraud,” saying that “Fraudsters have been able to obtain driver’s licences, passports, phone numbers and credit cards, as well as open bank accounts, take out bank loans and create companies, all under fake names. By the time police move in, many of the fraudsters have vanished, leaving investigators trying to locate people who never existed.”

Diplomatic passports

Possession of diplomatic passports by ambassadors, consuls, and other diplomatic officials immunize travelers but from bag searches at airports.  This “diplomatic pouch” carve-out presents a significant smuggling risk.

Financial crimes analyst Kenneth Rijock revealed that Hezbollah agents based in South America were granted diplomatic passports by Venezuela, meaning:

Hezbollah agents could transport cocaine in international commerce, without fear of arrest. They also can carry bulk cash, or financial instruments into offshore financial centres, this moving Hezbollah drug profits along on their journey to controlled entities inside Lebanon.  One wonders whether how many Hezbollah agents are running around Europe with Lebanese diplomatic passports, moving cash or cashier’s cheques through EU banks, in support of the organisation’s terrorist goals…

The Venezuela connection was followed by an uproar in Canada over an Iranian national who entered the country with a diplomatic passport issued by St. Kitts & Nevis after the Iranian paid a $1 million bribe to Caribbean officials.

Author of the book Dirty Dealing Peter Lilley once observed that possession of a diplomatic passport from “an obscure country” could be red flag for money laundering.

What can be done

There can always be tighter controls and better physical standards for passports to prevent counterfeiting, the same way that officials do with currency.  More countries could use Interpol’s database of lost and stolen passports, although there are costs associated with that.  The Heritage Foundation has argued that the biographical questionnaire in the U.S. passport application should be modified.  Individuals should also take steps to safeguard their own passports from being stolen or copied.

Another measure to consider would be for some countries to increase the penalties for counterfeit passports.  Hollywood actor Wesley Snipes got off with simply being able to return to his country without even paying a fine after allegedly being caught abroad with a fake South African passport.

This piece has also been published at Terror Finance Blog.

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Illicit transfer news: recommended reading

March 13, 2014
  • Eight have been arrested in raids over zakat raised in Britain to fund terrorism in Syria… more>>
  • Is a millionaire bitcoin trader copping a plea over money laundering allegations?  More>>
  • By sea, land, and air—Iran’s history of busted arms smuggling operations is exposed… more>>
  • Speaking of Iranian weapons trafficking, Iraq has been a helpful facilitator to their neighbor lately… more>>
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