Posts Tagged ‘smuggling’

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Catalan rangers catch falcon smugglers

March 31, 2014

Arab falconry - http://images.nationalgeographic.com/wpf/media-live/photos/000/257/cache/abu-dhabi-desert-falcon_25765_600x450.jpg

British and Spanish authorities have unraveled an international falcon smuggling ring in Catalonia. The news report doesn’t mention it, but the demand for falcons is almost exclusively from the Middle East. The main market is the Persian Gulf, and Dubai is a key port of entry and transit (as it also is for smuggled ivory, big cats, and other wildlife contraband). From Wildlife Extra on Mar. 20:

Bird crime ring busted by Spanish and UK wildlife crime units

The UK National Wildlife Crime Unit have helped COS AGENTS RURALS DE CATALUNYA (Catalonia Rural Ranger Corps) uncover an international bird laundering ring.

Agents in Spain investigating individuals keeping Peregrine falcons, became suspicious of documentation that they had seized, which indicated that falcons in their possession had been captive bred in the UK.

Enquiries by the NWCU revealed that leg rings being worn by some of the falcons in Spain were not the original rings referred to on the documentation.

Evidence gleaned by the NWCU suggests that fake rings are being manufactured to match genuine permits…

What is the connection between hunting with falcons and financing terrorism, apart from the fact that both involve wealthy Arabs? The filmmakers of “Feathered Cocaine,” the 2010 documentary about falcons and Osama Bin Laden, revealed the following:

Feathered Cocaine interviews Robert Baer, a former CIA agent, about the Royal Falconry Camps and how they are used to funnel huge amounts of cash to Terrorists, including Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda. The money transfers are cash only and are flown between countries in large military Government airplanes that are not checked by customs upon arrival. The CIA believes these planes are used to deliver cars, cash, weapons and supplies to militant terrorists. The Persian Gulf rulers have refused to shut down these camps when asked to do so…

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Mookie moves to export the revolution

February 17, 2014

Bahrainis busted for smuggling weapons from Iraq

Bahrain is alleging that Iraqi militia strongman Muqtada “Mookie” al-Sadr is training fifth columnists to seize power in Bahrain when the time is right.

Yet the headline and allegation cannot be read at face value:  this Bahraini newspaper Gulf Daily News represents the ruling Sunni monarchy and so does the legal system that produced the forced confessions of the Shia defendants in the alleged Sadrist plot.

By the way, it is cases like this that Bahrain’s neighbor Saudi Arabia may replicate if and when it seeks to enforce its new informant rewards program.  Like Bahrain, Saudi Arabia has strategic interests in crippling internal Shia dissidents.

That being said, the very real possibility that Sadr would back elements to Bahrain and wait to take over has a definite ring of truth to it.  Iran and its Iraqi ally Sadr would both love to see an arc of Shia control spanning from Aleppo to Manama.

Here’s the Gulf Daily News account, with thanks to LatLongPacific for notifying Money Jihad about the story:

Arms smuggling six remanded

By NOOR ZAHRA,  Posted on Friday, February 07, 2014

SIX men who allegedly smuggled large hauls of weapons into Bahrain were yesterday remanded in police custody for 30 days.

The Bahrainis reportedly travelled to Iraq last year to receive militia training in weapons with Shi’ite strongman Moqtada Al Sadr’s Mahdi Army, according to case files.

They have been accused of conspiring with a foreign country, joining the movement of Al Sadr, recruiting others and being part of a terrorist cell.

They have also been charged with receiving militia training in weapons and explosives.

One of the men, who was arrested on September 25 last year, was allegedly recruited through a middleman in Iraq.

“We went to Iraq and received militia training along with the army of Moqtada Al Sadr,” said the 23-year-old in his statement to prosecutors.

“The Iraqis told us not to get involved with riots in Bahrain, so we will not be arrested over something small.

“They told us to prepare ourselves for when chaos happened and that is when we come into the picture.

“We went to Karbala and received training in AK47s, explosives and RPGs. We also received $400 each.”

His co-defendant, an 18-year-old Bahraini, told prosecutors they used charity money donated by political societies in attacks against policemen…

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Hamas $200m poorer as smuggling tunnels close

February 10, 2014

The New York Times reports that Egyptian closures of tunnels used to smuggle weapons and merchandise into Gaza has resulted in a loss of nearly $200 million to Hamas, which taxes goods that are smuggled through the tunnels.

Previous news reports have indicated that Hamas’s taxes on the underground trade grew and became formalized within the past few years, and that the terrorist organization made a million dollars a day in early 2013 by levying taxes on smuggled products.

Thanks to Sal for sending this over:

As Gaza Tunnels Closed, Hamas Lost Cash, Israeli Official Says

TEL AVIV — Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza, is in severe economic straits, having lost a major source of income in recent months because of an Egyptian clampdown on hundreds of smuggling tunnels, a high-ranking Israeli military official told reporters at army headquarters here on Thursday.

Dozens of tunnels running beneath Gaza’s border with Egypt are still operating, he said, but the $200 million that Hamas collected annually in tax revenues from the tunnel trade has been reduced to a few million dollars at most.

The Israeli official, from the military’s southern command, which deals with Gaza and Israel’s border with Egypt, was speaking on the condition of anonymity in line with military protocol.

A variety of goods, including cheap flour, subsidized Egyptian fuel and building materials, had flowed into Gaza through the tunnels, as well as weapons and operatives, he said, describing the tunnel system as Gaza’s economic lifeline. More goods are being imported from Israel, but at a much higher cost.

The tunnel clampdown began over the summer, when the military in Egypt ousted President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, who was Hamas’s most important ally. The Egyptians acted against the tunnels because of what they saw as their own security interests, the Israeli military official said.

Isra al-Modallal, a spokeswoman for Hamas, said Gaza had suffered overall losses of more than $500 million in all sectors because of the closing of the tunnels, but she could not provide a figure for how much Hamas had lost in tax revenue. The amount of goods entering Gaza through the tunnels has been cut by 95 percent, she added…

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ISI and Jamaat-e-Islami behind 10 truckloads of smuggled arms

February 7, 2014

Verdicts have been reached in a 2004 case involving the discovery of 10 trucks full of Chinese-made guns and ammunition intended to help fighters of the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) break away from India.

While Assamese separatists are mostly non-Muslim, they have been sustained financially and logistically by Islamist elements in Pakistan and Bangladesh including the ISI spy agency and the Jamaat-e-Islami party.  Fracturing India would give Pakistan a strategic advantage in the subcontinent.

Motiur Rahman Nizami, a Jamaat party member who served as Bangladesh’s industries minister during a coalition government in the early 2000s, is the senior-most official convicted in the case, whose involvement demonstrates Jamaat’s desire to foster separatism in northeast India.

As for the involvement of Pakistan’s involvement through its ISI spy service, The Daily Star reports that former Bangladeshi intelligence official Shahab Uddin, one of the conspirators in the smuggling operation, admitted that, “the ISI had provided mobile monitoring equipment” as a “gift,” and that Shahab met with ISI officials to discuss gun-running plans.

Previous reporting by the Times of India has shown that ULFA fighters were trained by the ISI as early as 1991.

Thanks to Munazir Hussain Syed for apprising Money Jihad of these revelations.

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Radical finance: recommended reading

February 6, 2014

Thanks to tipsters Arun, “Mean Kitteh,” and Andrew Bowen for sending links about these items:

  • Reuters reports that Congress “secretly approves” arming the rebels in Syria… more>>
  • The president of a Muslim Brotherhood-linked mosque in Charleston has been indicted in a multimillion dollar cigarette smuggling scheme… more>>
  • Poaching wildlife has become the 4th most lucrative illicit activity in the world… more>>
  • Cuba has announced that it will freeze any assets of Al Qaeda in its banks. One analyst explains why the new sanctions are meaningless, and why terrorists deposit money in Cuba in the first place… more>>
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Police: Jamaat funded by border drug smuggling

January 27, 2014

Jamaat-e-Islami operatives posing as mango and tomato exporters in eastern Bangladesh are actually smuggling drugs, hemp, prescription cough syrup (which is also drunk for intoxication), and people across the border with India, according to local police.

The Islamist Jamaat party and its student Shibir wing have been attacking the government and moderate elements in Bangladesh for years, and Jamaat is trying to put a stop to Bangladesh’s ongoing efforts to bring Islamist war criminals to justice for atrocities they committed in the 1970s.

Jamaat receives significant sponsorship from Pakistani and Saudi sources, Western and Gulf-based Muslim charities, and sharia finance institutions, but regional smuggling profits are needed as well to maintain Jamaat’s wide-scale operations.

An excerpt from a report by the Dhaka Tribune follows, with thanks to Shah Ali Farhad for sending this over:

…What was most surprising to this correspondent was that Jamaat Leader Modasser Ali and Secetary General of the upazila and Kibria Jamaat Unit Golam Azam operate a smuggling racket in the area, according to police and locals under anonymity. They smuggle Phensedyle, hemp and others Indian items into the country, they said.

Regarding the funding of Jamaat-Shibir, Abdur Razzak said members of the Islamist outfit mainly collect money from drug smuggling to run their political activities in the area.

However, upon inquiry Modasser said he used to operate a mobile cell phone shop at Shibganj Bazar and that he brought best quality items from India during that time.

“I have a trade license. The ruling party men vandalised my shop and since then it has remained closed,” he said.

Over the course of the conversation, Modasser repeatedly denied being involved in smuggling.

However, people in the area said Modasser providede funding for Jamaat-Shibir to operate their political activities.

In contrast, Modasser said he did not need to finance anybody.

“People love me and they follow my instruction,” he added.

Similar replies came from Jamaat Leader Azam,  who said they mainly cultivated mango and tomatoes, leaving no time to smuggle things into the country.

AKM Mizanur Rahman, officer-in-charge of Shibganj police station, said that smuggling was not a new trend in the area.

“We are working on it and a number of illegal shipments have already been recovered in the past couple of months.”

Rab-5 Lieutenant Colonel Anwar Latif Khan of Shibganj said members of the elite force are active in the area and that a large quantity of drugs had been seized in recent drives.

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How al-Shabaab controls the ivory trade

January 20, 2014

Marauders in eastern Kenya poach for ivory.  The ivory is bought by brokers who arrange for transport of the merchandise with al-Shabaab through Somalia.  Al-Shabaab exports the ivory from the Somali coast to the illicit world market.

Inter Press Service reports (h/t El Grillo):

…In 2012 and 2013 alone, nearly 60,000 elephants and over 1,600 rhinos were illegally killed for their tusks.

The driving force behind this practice is clearly the significant money that can still be made from these products. According to expert estimates, a rhino horn is worth 50,000 dollars per pound on the black market, more than the value of gold or platinum.

This, activists say, makes poaching very hard to resist.

“Most people know that this is wrong, but you need to make a distinction between poacher and poacher,” Andrea Crosta, the executive director of Elephant Action League (EAL), a U.S.-based group that fights poaching and illegal trafficking, told IPS.

“On one end, you have the poor local tribesman with no job who just needs the money. On the other, you have the organised criminal gangs, with weapons and money, who are able to bribe rangers and get their information.”

Crosta says a pair of tusks can be worth a few years’ salary in many African countries.

“To someone with no job and a large family to feed, that’s a lot of money,” he says. “They know it’s wrong, but the temptation is just too strong.”

Together with a team of EAL members, Crosta spent much of 2010 to 2012 investigating poaching in East Africa. According to their findings, large quantities of ivory were getting into Somalia in a systematic, organised way.

Later, they discovered this process was being run by Al-Shabaab.

“We were undercover, pretending to be researchers and zoologists, and that way we were able to speak with small and big traders, poachers and middlemen,” Crosta, who is currently based in the Netherlands, told IPS.

His team was able to unveil an undercover trafficking system that saw between one and three tonnes of ivory getting into Somalia, facilitated by Al-Shabaab, every month…

The Elephant Action League has previously reported that, “Shabaab has been actively buying and selling ivory as a means of funding their militant operations,” and that Kenyan ivory brokers prefer working with al-Shabaab middlemen because of their organizational skills and efficiency.  Moreover, “the terrorist group pays better than average prices (U.S. $200 per kilogram in 2011-2012), making them desirable buyers of illicit ivory from small-time brokers.”

See previous Money Jihad coverage of ivory-funded terror here and here.

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Drug smugglers build fancy tunnels on US border

November 15, 2013

Gaza isn’t the only place with illicit smuggling tunnels.  More than 75 tunnels have been found along the U.S.’s southwest border since 2008 according to ABC News, which has remarkable footage from an underground mega-tunnel connecting Tijuana to San Diego:

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Syrian gangs profit from human pipeline

November 6, 2013

The Mirror is reporting that Syrian refugees are paying high dollar to crime syndicates to gain entry to Europe.  The British daily says that this phenomenon raises the specter that groups fighting in Syria such as Al Qaeda could use the same tactics to send jihadists into the EU.

Criminal gangs smuggling Syria refugees into Britain for £11,000 a time exposed

27 Oct 2013

The gang’s activities raise serious concerns that terrorist organisations such as al-Qaeda could use similar tactics to sneak jihadists into Europe

A people-trafficking gang raking in millions of pounds by bringing hundreds of Syrian refugees into the UK is today exposed by the Sunday Mirror.

The gang in Istanbul, Turkey, told our undercover investigators that for £34,000 they would smuggle three men here from Syria using false ­passports and minders.

We had earlier met a Syrian woman who used her life savings to pay the gang to help her flee after being tortured in her home country.

The teacher, who we are calling Ishtar to protect her identity, is now living in southern England.

She told how traffickers got her from Turkey to Britain after handing her a false ­passport.

She was flown to Austrian capital Vienna, driven to Sweden, then caught a BA flight to the UK.

The gang’s activities raise serious concerns that terrorist organisations such as al-Qaeda could use similar tactics to sneak jihadists into Europe.

We were alerted to the criminal ­organisation by an anonymous phone call to our London offices.

Our investigator was warned: “This trade is making millions for Turkish gangs.

“They have fixers around Europe and in the UK flying people across Europe. They have people working in airports who look the other way.

“They are taking Syrians to Italy, Holland and the Scandinavian countries, but Britain is the most expensive. On landing, the Syrian asks for asylum.

“They are often out of the airport within three hours because nobody is going to send them back to a country where people are being killed by chemical weapons.”

Ishtar told us how she escaped and why she turned to the traffickers.

She said: “Hundreds of Syrians pay gangs in Turkey to get them into Britain so they can apply for asylum.

“I used my life savings and my family’s gold to pay a gang €13,000 (£11,000) to help me start a new life in safety…

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Liberal judges toss Chechen financier’s conviction

September 8, 2013

Just four months after the Boston marathon bombing, two federal judges on a three-judge panel have overturned the conviction of the Oregon-based Islamic “charity leader” and terrorist fundraiser Pete Seda, who helped facilitate the transfer of $130,000 to Chechen terrorists in the early 2000s.

Activists like Seda have served as key conduits for funneling zakat donations from Western countries through Islamic front charities to jihadist causes around the world.  The revenues supported the creation of websites and recruitment tools that helped radicalize North Caucasus diaspora like Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

Seda’s conviction was overturned by Judge Mary Schroeder, who was appointed by Jimmy Carter, and Judge Margaret McKeown, who was appointed by Bill Clinton and considered for a Supreme Court appointment by Barack Obama, on the grounds of alleged unfairness during the Seda investigation and trial.

The two judges claim that the Seda trial began as a white collar crime case but ended as a terrorism case, that some information about a witness named Barbara Cabral was not shared with defense attorneys, and that the scope of a warrant served against Seda before the trial was exceeded by law enforcement.

Meanwhile, Judge Robert Tallman, a Republican who was appointed by Bill Clinton, delivered a vigorous dissent from the liberal judges’ opinion.  Oregon’s Daily Tidings summarizes Judge Tallman’s reasoning:

…In his dissenting opinion, Judge Richard Tallman wrote that the majority judges in the appeal improperly failed to take into consideration that [trial court judge] Hogan held a separate hearing on the Cabral issues before ruling the evidence would not have changed the jury’s verdict.

Tallman wrote that the appellate judges should not reverse Hogan’s ruling without it being “clearly erroneous,” which was not the case.

Moreover, Tallman’s minority opinion argued that the scope of the search warrant was not breached by agents searching Seda’s computers and that the other issues do not rise to the level necessary for overturning the jury’s guilty verdict.

Tallman also took issue with the majority opinion’s apparent dismissing of the key evidence in the actual tax fraud and conspiracy charges that were at the core of the case against Seda.

Seda and his codefendant, a Saudi national named Soliman Al-Buthe, went to great lengths and expenses to convert funds wired to Al-Haramain into $130,000 worth of hard-to-trace $1,000 cashier’s checks that Al-Buthe then carried from Ashland to Saudi Arabia in 2000, according to Tallman’s opinion.

Al-Buthe, also known as Al-Buthi, did so in violation of federal financial-reporting rules that he had complied with on nine other occasions, Tallman noted.

Also, Al-Buthe carried with him and failed to report that he was carrying a cashier’s check made out to him at an Ashland bank for $21,000, which Al-Buthe deposited in his personal bank account in Saudi Arabia.

“A reasonable jury could have concluded on this evidence that this was Al-Buthe’s ‘cut’ for serving as the courier,” Tallman wrote.

The jury also heard plenty of evidence on what Tallman calls the “deceitful manner” in which Seda hid the smuggled money by falsely declaring on a tax return that the money went toward the purchase of a prayer house in Missouri.

Had the men’s intent been not to smuggle the money to the Middle East, Seda simply could have wired the money directly to Al-Haramain’s main office in Saudi Arabia for about $15, Tallman wrote.

“The jury obviously thought the entire handling of the money reeked of criminal intent, as evidenced by its verdict,” Tallman wrote.

Hat tip to Rushette for alerting us to the appeals court decision.

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Anatomy of an embargo buster

September 4, 2013

Step 1:  Let North Korean Air Force Gen. Yi Pyong-chol place an order for MiG-21s with the Castro brothers in Havana.

Step 2:  Hide 25 containers of jet fighter and anti-aircraft missile parts under 200,000 bags of Cuban sugar in the cargo hold of a North Korean bulk carrier.

Step 3:  Lie to the world by claiming, upon discovery of the smuggling attempt, that the aircraft were being sent to Pyongyang “to be repaired and returned to Cuba,” while the fighter jets are actually intended for end use in North Korea.

38 North has the details, which illustrate common state-sponsored sanctions evasion tactics:

Full Disclosure: Contents of North Korean Smuggling Ship Revealed

By Hugh Griffiths and Roope Siirtola

27 August 2013

All is seldom as it first appears in the world of North Korean sanctions busting. Six weeks after the inspection of the North Korean vessel Chong Chon Gang by Panamanian authorities on suspicion of drug trafficking, the full extent of the ship’s illicit military cargo falsely declared to be sugar and spare plastic sacks appears to have been much larger than previously reported. Moreover, key parts of the shipment seem intended for Pyongyang’s own use in its conventional military defenses, not to be repaired and returned to Cuba. Finally, the results of the search by Panamanian authorities provides new insight into North Korea’s illicit procurement priorities as well as evidence of its preferred maritime concealment methods and raises a host of still unanswered questions.

Undeclared Artillery and Small Arms Munitions Discovered

While initial media reporting suggested the seizure amounted to a few shipping containers with anti-aircraft missile components, two jet fighters and related engines, in fact a total of 25 shipping containers have now been recovered, together with six military vehicles. These were camouflaged at the bottom of five of the ship’s holds beneath about 200,000 bags of sugar, weighing approximately one hundred pounds each. This amount of sugar together with “two thousand empty polyethylene bags” were the only declared items listed in the cargo manifest signed by North Korean Captain Ri Yong Il.

A report compiled by various Panamanian authorities and the United Nations Organization on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Container Control Programme (CCP) together with photographs of the seizure make clear that contrary to both the North Korean shipping declaration and Cuban government statements the shipment was without a doubt a violation of United Nations sanctions on North Korea.

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