Posts Tagged ‘remittances’

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Uganda’s police chief to probe remitters

May 3, 2015

The head of Uganda’s national police force said they will investigate money services businesses (MSBs) after Kenya suspended 13 MSBs alleged to finance the terrorist group al-Shabaab in Somalia. Several of those same companies operating in Somalia and Kenya also do business in Uganda.  Dahabshiil is probably the most prominent of the money transfer companies identified.

From the Kampala Observer via All Africa (h/t Chris Pariso):

Police chief Kale Kayihura has said they are to investigate transactions of money transfer companies here, after evidence in Kenya suggested that some were being used to channel money for financing terrorism.

Speaking in Kampala last week, Kayihura said some of the transfer companies under investigation in Kenya are affiliated to some institutions in Uganda. According to an April 14 gazette notice issued under Kenya’s Prevention of Terrorism Act and signed by police chief Joseph Boinnet, money transfer companies topped the list of 86 accounts alleged to fund terror groups.

The notable money transfer companies mentioned include Dahabshiil, which has agent locations and branches in 126 countries worldwide, including Uganda. Another mentioned company is Kendy Money Transfer Limited, which launched its money transfer services in Kenya last September…

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Kenya suspends 13 remitters including Dahabshiil

April 17, 2015

Kenya has frozen the bank accounts of 86 people and suspended the licenses of 13 money transfer organizations, including Dahabshiil, for their alleged role in funding the terrorist group al-Shabaab.  From NTV Kenya last week:

Critics of decisions like this often claim that regulators are cutting off “life lines” to poor Somalis by making money transfers to Somalia more difficult.  But as the news report points out, there are major, conventional banks that provide wire services.  It’s just that the fees are higher with the banks than with smaller money transfer firms and hawala dealers.  Kudos to Kenya for attempting to rein in the funding of al-Shabaab.

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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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Terror money news: recommended reading

November 6, 2014
  • Halal food certification enriches terror affiliates… more>>
  • Why terrorists love money transfer companies… more>>
  • Vice President says the Gulf monarchies funded ISISmore>>
  • Nigeria’s central bank denies financing Boko Harammore>>
  • An informative review of the controversial $1.3 billion in U.S. foreign aid to Egypt through American and Egyptian eyes… more>>
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Jihadist’s family out of business after secret $9 million transfer to Lebanon

September 29, 2014

Australian financial authorities have foiled an ongoing attempt to keep millions of dollars in transactions off the books by a remittance company owned by a terrorist’s sister and her husband. The case illustrates the possibilities for financial system abuse by small, non-bank financial companies based in the West with significant business operations in high-risk countries like Lebanon. The case also provides justification for probing the money trails and the sympathies of the families of convicted terrorists.

Hat tip to El Grillo for sending in related news. From The Sydney Morning Herald on Sept. 17:

Sharrouf family firm shut over terror funding fears

A Lakemba money transfer business owned by the sister and brother-in-law of convicted Sydney terrorist Khaled Sharrouf has been suspended amid concerns it was sending millions of dollars to the Middle East to finance terrorism.

Damour Sharrouf and her husband Ahmed Alwash have had their Lakemba firm Bisotel Rieh Pty Ltd suspended after the financial intelligence agency AUSTRAC became concerned about millions of dollars sent to Turkey and Lebanon that the firm has failed to account for. It is the first such suspension over suspected terrorism financing.

Ms Sharrouf, 37, is the older sister of Khaled Sharrouf, the 31-year-old who is wanted for terrorism offences and who escaped to the Middle East on his brother’s passport.

Local business owners told Fairfax Media they had seen Khaled Sharrouf inside the Lakemba business, which also operates a travel firm, before he went overseas.

“Yes, I’ve met him before,” barber Mohamad Machlouche, who owns the business next door to the money transfer firm, said. “He seemed different before [he went overseas]. He seemed normal, looking for work, was a normal person.

“No one on earth was expecting anything like this.”

According to the money transfer firm’s website, it has an office in the northern Lebanon city of Tripoli, seen as an epicentre for Sunni extremism in the country and a gateway to funding militant groups in neighbouring Syria – raising the possibility that money could even have gone to the brutal Islamic State group.

AUSTRAC’s acting head John Schmidt told Fairfax Media the agency’s concerns were based on the fact that Bisotel Rieh was failing to report all of the money it sent overseas and often refused to reveal who was ultimately receiving the funds. Also, it was sending money to “high terrorism financing risk jurisdictions”.

“We’ve had some concerns about the quality of their reporting. For example, for the period from January to August this year, they reported international funds transfers of $12.3 million. We believe from other sources that it was in fact closer to $21.3 million,” Mr Schmidt said.

“So in that eight-month period, there’s already a $9 million discrepancy. That causes concerns.”…

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Why can’t you send money home to Somalia? Because your politicians want sharia banking first

September 8, 2014

The fairy tale is that existing financial channels from conventional Western banks in England and Minnesota can create a new, “safe corridor” for high-tech, well-screened remittances from the Somali diaspora back to their families with an eliminated risk of financing terrorism or corruption in the process. The sharia banking plan is to leapfrog over the creation of a conventional, interest-based banking sector in Somalia by establishing sharia financial sector based exclusively on Islamic law. The word on the street is that the notorious money transfer company Dahabshiil is peddling influence with Somali politicians to ensure that no new financial institution cuts into their racket—a charge which (like every other mounting charge against it) Dahabshiil denies.

The result of all this is that there has yet to be a conventional bank in Somalia that can provide banking and money transfer services.  Thus it is becoming increasingly clear that Western banks should not be blamed for the inability of Somali leaders to authorize their own private banks and remittance channels.  The next time you hear somebody demand Western banks to keep the “lifeline” of Somali remittances open, ask yourself why Somali politicians won’t create a lifeline of their own.

The following excerpt from an Aug. 25 Foreign Policy article entitled, “Franchise Opportunity: Western Union in Somaliland” (hat tip Sal) goes a long way to explain why:

…For the past year, Somaliland’s parliament has failed to enact legislation allowing the creation of a commercial banking sector. The reluctance, government insiders say, is rooted in the belief that sends the muezzin’s call to prayer echoing from every corner of Hargeisa five times a day: the Islamic faith. Mindful of a constitution explicitly drafted according to Islamic principles, Somaliland’s parliamentarians have approved an Islamic Banking Law, but have yet to pass its commercial equivalent. They fear it could introduce the charging of interest on economic activity, which is unacceptable under sharia law.

“We’ve visited parliament; we have sat down with the chairman to explain how important this is, how much we need these foreign banks. We push and push and push,” says Abdilahi Hassan Aden, director general of Somaliland’s (unrecognized) central bank. “But we are still waiting.”

A Western advisor to the government sees parliament as ultimately persuadable, but not without work. “A lot of this is about changing the narrative when it comes to religion, changing mentalities,” the advisor says. “Islamic countries like Malaysia or Indonesia, for example, still manage to have commercial banking sectors.”

In private, some officials voice the suspicion that a commercial banking law has been so long in coming because the MTOs, influential local economic players that they are, until recently preferred the remittance system to remain just as it was. It’s a charge Dahabshiil, for its part, rejects. Abdirashid Duale, chief executive officer, insists the company is keen to see legislation allowing commercial banking passed. “Dahabshiil is very supportive of any law or other initiative that supports the commercial banking sector,” he says.*

Dahabshiil, which says it does background checks on all the customers it can, sees itself instead as a victim of world events. “All of this started because of 9/11,” Duale says. “Before then, there was no difference between us and a grocery store opening a bank account to deposit its earnings. With 9/11, the world changed, especially for Muslims.”

MTO operators say Barclays’s move would do the opposite of improving competition on a continent whose inhabitants already pay well over the odds for their money transfers. U.S.-based Western Union and MoneyGram, which the Barclays decision would not affect, charge far higher fees than Dahabshiil, which prides itself on being the cheapest MTO in the world.

Dahabshiil has now applied for and been granted a banking license under Somaliland’s existing Islamic banking legislation. But if that materializes, there would still be an open question of how thousands of rural families who will never see the inside of a bank — too far away, too expensive — would survive financially.

After a spirited lobbying campaign by the Somali diaspora, fronted by Olympic sprinter Mo Farah, whose family lives in Somaliland, the British government set up an action group in the fall of 2013 to try to hammer out a solution. The Department for International Development (DFID), alongside the British Treasury, is working on establishing a “safer corridor” for remittances. Its feasibility study explores ways of improving customer due diligence, from biometric fingerprinting to PINs to bar codes, and the establishment of an independent “trusted third party” to audit transactions. But more than a year after the remittance issue first blew up, the “safer corridor” remains a distant aspiration.

British consultants who were in Hargeisa to address a conference on money laundering, attended by Somaliland government ministers, remittance companies, the local Chamber of Commerce, and the World Bank, dismiss the “safer corridor” idea as a non-starter. (They have been commissioned by Dahabshiil to carry out a regional banking survey.) “It’s a Hans Christian Andersen story concocted by DFID, a case of the emperor’s new clothes,” says Peter Norris of Obiter Consult. “It’s been very unhelpful in luring everyone into a false sense of security.”

“The idea that you can have some massive computer system and somehow feed all this information in … and the computer will somehow work out which clients are dodgy and which are clean is a nonsense,” he adds…

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Singer shot dead after saying Somali bank funds terror

July 25, 2014

UPDATE—FEB. 21, 2015:

In October 2012, Dahabshiil commenced defamation proceedings in The Netherlands against Dahir Alasow (a Somali asylum seeker living in The Netherlands) in respect of various articles written by Mr Alasow and published on his websites including Sunatimes, Waagacusub and ASOJ. These articles alleged that Dahabshiil was, inter alia, involved in the financing of terrorism and other serious crimes, allegations which were categorically denied by Dahabshiil.

On 16 December 2014, the ’s-Hertogenbosch Court of Appeal of The Netherlands, following an extensive examination of the evidence, ruled that the articles were untrue and defamatory of Dahabshiil. Mr Alasow was ordered to remove various articles containing the defamatory allegations from his websites, publish a notice of rectification and pay Dahabshiil’s legal costs. The court’s decision can be found here:
http://uitspraken.rechtspraak.nl/inziendocument?id=ECLI:NL:GHSHE:2014:5351


Somali super star singer

MP Saado Ali Warsame

Saado Ali Warsame, a well-known singer and member of parliament in Somali, was assassinated Wednesday on the streets of Mogadishu near the Ambassador Hotel. The jihadist organization Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the murder.

The BBC reports that “a spokesman for the Islamist al-Shabab group, Abdulaziz Abu Musab, told the BBC that she was targeted for her politics.”

Warsame herself believed that a bounty was offered for her killing by Dahabshiil, a UAE-based money transfer business that operates primarily in Somalia. In 2013, the news website Suna Times reported that Warsame had “accused Dahabshiil of putting a two million dollar bounty for her death, shortly after she released a song called Dahabshiil ha dhigan (‘Don’t Deposit with Dahabshiil’).” Money Jihad has been one of the only other English-language websites to cover those allegations.  Dahabshiil’s attorneys have previously denied the allegations in correspondence with Money Jihad.

Warsame’s album warned fans about Dahabshiil’s ‘linkage to tribalism and extremism,’ and satirized the company’s name, which means “goldsmith” by calling it Dhiigshiil, which means “bloodsmith.” Dahabshiil makes regular payments to al-Shabaab.

A dual U.S. citizen, Warsame’s family should demand a full investigation by federal authorities, and the family should consider legal action against the perpetrators.

Despite all the warning signs, prominent charities and spokesmen such as Olympics medalist Mo Farah have insisted that Barclays bank continue offering remittance services in conjunction with Dahabshiil. Those advocates for partnership with Dahabshiil should review this tragic case of Ms. Warsame.

Speaking at her funeral, Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed said, “We will never stop to hunt the criminals and we will punish them.” Let’s hope that is the case. Another East African musician, Nimo Djama, has also sung out against Dahabshiil’s role in terrorist financing. Officials in the UK and U.S. need to wake up about the threat of Dahabshiil before this happens again.

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Tsarnaev friend sent $70K to 15 people overseas

June 16, 2014

The Associated Press is reporting that Khairullozhon Matanov, a friend of Boston marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev, used aliases to transfer over $70,000 overseas in the years leading up to the Apr. 15, 2013, attack. The source of the money has not been disclosed, but we know that the Tsarnaev brothers were the recipients of over $100,000 in public benefits from 2002 to 2012. The AP reports that one of the overseas transfers was made while Tsarnaev was travelling in Russia—the intimation being that the transfer may have been for or on behalf of Tsarnaev.

Were Matanov and Tsarnaev scratching each other’s backs?

…Agent Timothy McElroy said that between 2010 and 2013, Matanov sent more than $71,000 to 15 people in six countries. McElroy said agents determined that most of the money — about $56,590 — was sent to Matanov’s family, while the rest — about $14,800 — went to non-family.

Matanov’s lawyer, Edward Hayden, said the money transfers ‘had nothing to do with terrorism.’

‘He was uncomfortable sending all the money in his own name,’ he said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Garland said Matanov had repeatedly deceived authorities when questioned about his relationship with Tamerlan Tsarnaev in the days after the bombings. Garland said his “pattern of deceit” was also shown through Matanov’s use of aliases when sending money….

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Philippine jihad relies on Saudi zakat

April 18, 2014

The terrorist organization Abu Sayyaf Group relies mostly on kidnapping for ransom for its revenues. ASG also collects money from extortion and from the collection of zakat according to a March 2014 report from Thomson Reuters. The key point of origin of the zakat for the jihadist group is Saudi Arabia. An excerpt from the report follows:

…The ASG has also maintained the collection of Zakat, one of its traditional sources of funding, though not as profitable as its criminal activities. Zakat, which prescribes Muslims to donate 2.5% of their net revenue to charity, is legitimate under Shariah law. The ASG which claims to struggle for the establishment of an independent Islamic state in Mindanao, benefits from Zakat collected locally and abroad. Locals and those abroad who believe that militant groups are in pursuit of jihad donate substantially to support their operations and upkeep. Some donors however, are not aware that their donations end up in the treasury of militant groups.

Crucial to the collection of Zakat in the Middle East are a small number of sympathetic Filipino workers who help source donors and channel funds to the militant groups through the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) remittance system. The Philippines is one of the major exporters of labor to Saudi Arabia with more than a million Filipino workers in that country. Annual remittances amounting to more than a billion pesos have literally kept the Philippine economy afloat. Lack of regulations or monitoring of these remittances allows the flow of funds from supporters abroad to militant groups like the ASG. The ASG has not established a stable support group in any other country except for Saudi Arabia. They depend only on a few core supporters, mostly relatives and friends, both locally and abroad. In the past they collected donations during Friday congregational prayers and used the proceeds for the procurement of ammunition, medicines, and military supplies. It is estimated that from 1992 to 2007, the ASG collected almost ₱20 million from Zakat.

Propaganda is critical for the continuity of Zakat. There is no recent evidence that the ASG is publicly engaged in propaganda which suggests less reliance in Zakat. Previously, the ASG organized lectures and seminars to encourage people to take part in jihad by sharing their wealth through Zakat. The ASG is also known to compile video footages of militant training and actual combat operations. In October 2007, the ASG had appealed for funds and recruits on You Tube by featuring a video of two slain ASG leaders…

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Recognizing the risks of Somali remittances

March 11, 2014

This piece is also appearing over at Terror Finance Blog today:

Last week, Bell State Bank in North Dakota announced that it would stop doing business with companies that remit money to Somalia.  The move follows decisions by Minnesota banks in 2011 to stop providing Somali remittance services, and an attempt by Barclays last year to cut off its partnership with Dahabshiil, a money transfer company with primary operations in Somalia.  The banks have been challenged in courts on both sides of the Atlantic, and advocacy groups have heavily criticized the banks’ decisions on humanitarian grounds.

Indeed, humanitarian considerations are of the utmost importance.  Unfortunately, money transferred to Somalia, particularly through Dahabshiil, all too often falls into the wrong hands and perpetuates the cycle of violence in Somalia.  Banks should stand fast in their original decisions, and here are five reasons why:

  1. The risks are real.  The frequency of cases involving Somalis in the West transferring funds to al-Shabaab over the last few years presents genuine concerns to financial institutions.  For instance, four men in California were found guilty last year of transferring money to al-Shabaab through Shidaal Express, a Somali hawala business.  Two Somali women in Minnesota were sentenced in 2013 for sending money to al-Shabaab through several remittance channels including local hawala dealers and Dahabshiil.  A Saudi-American was also indicted last year for wiring money to al-Shabaab.  In 2012, a man in London admitting transferring £8,900 to fighters in Somalia.  Danish intelligence revealed in 2012 that the equivalent of thousands of dollars a day is sent to terrorist organizations outside of Denmark—mostly to Somalia, and often unwittingly.  In addition to genuine risks on the ground in Somalia, Western banks have real reasons for concern that if they continue relationships with Dahabshiil, they could subsequently be fined by regulators at a future date if political winds change.  U.S. banks are surely aware, for example, that decisions on whether to fine, settle with, or prosecute banks with lax compliance programs have a great deal to do with the shifting political and prosecutorial priorities of whoever happens to be in charge at the Department of Justice and the financial regulatory agencies.  One official may take a very friendly view toward facilitating Somali remittances this year, but a different person will be calling the shots two years from now.
  2. The risks are not decreasing.  Gone are the days of 2012 when al-Shabaab appeared to be on the ropes in 2012 both financially and militarily.  Al-Shabaab was able to turn around its financial situation after the fall of Kismayo by cutting deals with occupying forces.  Al-Shabaab continues to profit from imposing taxes on commodities such as charcoal and sugar, and their role as ivory trade middlemen between poachers and buyers appears to be growing.  Al-Shabaab is still capable of carrying out devastating strikes such as the Westgate Mall attack and the recent assault against Somalia’s presidential palace that left 11 dead.
  3. Dahabshiil poses a unique risk.  Western readers should be aware of alleged failures in Dahabshiil’s anti-money laundering and counter-terror finance compliance programs to include possible extortion payments made to al-Shabaab to operate in Somalia (which Dahabshiil denies).  One Guantanamo Bay detainee previously worked for Dahabshiil, and the presiding officer at a hearing for that detainee determined that his Dahabshiil branch transferred money for terrorism.  However, coverage of these allegations has been limited partly due from legal threats against journalists and online reputation management by Dahabshiil. Read the rest of this entry ?
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Another Eritrean embassy engages in extortion

January 10, 2014

It happens in Kenya, Canada, Britain, and, according to a new report, in Israel as well.  Eritrean diplomats carry out the dirty work of the dictatorship back home by forcing Eritreans living abroad to pay an illegal tax.

That tax funds the dictatorship and the al-Shabaab terrorist organization it supports.

Not only is the use of ambassadors and consuls to collect such a tax a violation of international consular law, but this latest case represents a violation of an Israeli law that caps foreign remittances.

The Eritrean embassy instructed Eritreans in Israel to remit their tax payments to a bank in Frankfurt, Germany, for follow-on transfer to Eritrea.

It’s become clear that Eritrean embassies really don’t help ordinary Eritreans who have attempted to make better lives for themselves abroad.  The “diplomats” are regime henchmen, fomenting strife within and extortion against the communities which they are supposed to serve.  The ultimate beneficiary is the repressive regime in Eritrea and its al-Shabaab partner.

From the Jerusalem Post, with a tip of the hat to El Grillo:

Eritrean Embassy offering advice how to make illegal money transfers

By BEN HARTMAN

12/23/2013 02:44

Migrants make claims day after brawl involving dozens of Eritrean regime opponents and supporters at Kibbutz Kinneret.

The Eritrean Embassy in Israel is advising migrants in Israel how to transfer money back to Eritrea through a bank account in Germany, contrary to Israeli law, which forbids such transfers, a group of Eritrean migrants said at a press conference in Tel Aviv on Sunday.

The migrants called the press conference the morning after a brawl involving dozens of regime opponents and supporters at an event organized by the embassy at Kibbutz Kinneret on Saturday, in which over a dozen people were wounded and around 15 arrested. They said that the embassy gave instructions to migrants about how to transfer money and also advertised real estate in Eritrea, telling them that it was a good opportunity for them to build a house back in their home country.

A law passed earlier this year makes it illegal for African migrants to transfer money out of Israel to their home country, and assigns stiff penalties to people found breaking this law, or Israelis found helping Africans wire money home.

The law stipulates that the transfer must be less than the minimum wage in Israel divided by the number of months the person has been in the country.

There were several hundred migrants taking part in the press conference on Saturday, activists in Tel Aviv said Sunday. They said a group of around 60 regime opponents arrived and were accused of being “Ethiopian instigators” by ambassador Tesfemariam Tekeste, at which time the say they were attacked.

The regime supporters and the ambassador said they were peacefully holding the meeting when they were set upon by Eritrean men wielding sticks and throwing rocks, with some wielding knives and screwdrivers.

At the press conference in an events hall near the Tel Aviv central bus station, regime opponents showed a pamphlet they say was being handed out by regime supporters at the event the previous day, which showed details of a bank called “Commerzbank” in Frankfurt. The pamphlet included a Swift code and details for transferring money through the German bank to the Housing and Commerce Bank of Eritrea, where they were told to specify that the money was meant for the “Urban Development Eritrea – Housing Project 2013.”

For unclear reasons, the pamphlets were in English, not Tigrinye.

The Eritrean government requires citizens in the diaspora to pay a monthly tax in order to retain their passport and that tax as well as money sent home by citizens outside the country are major sources of revenue for the Eritrean government…