Posts Tagged ‘South Africa’

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5 men caught smuggling $6m for ISIS

September 24, 2015

The $6 million is only the tip of the iceberg.  According to South African law enforcement, one of the men made the same trip every couple days.  But even if it were only $6 million, that is a big amount of cash to smuggle anywhere.  It’s surprising they could even squeeze that much money into 12 bags they were reportedly carrying.  (Maybe it was vacuum packed?)  No wonder why this report says there was inside help.  From Fox News on Sept. 21 (h/t @AllSourceFusion):

Five men nabbed last month about to board a flight at South Africa’s busiest airport with $6 million stuffed in bags may have made hundreds of such trips — with inside help — as part of a cash pipeline to fund the Islamic State, police sources said Monday.

The suspected couriers were caught at Johannesburg’s main airport, OR Tambo, on Aug. 28, but news the money was headed for the terror network only emerged late Sunday. A senior police officer told Fox News Monday the suspects are believed to have been headed for the ISIS caliphate in Syria and Iraq by way of Dubai, and that one may have made the same trek hundreds of times.

“It is very likely that the money was going to ISIS,” the police officer said. “We are investigating who these five carrying the money were, and there is one … we are particularly interested in, as records show he was flying to Dubai every two days for a year”…

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Charity’s bank accounts closed over Hamas ties

February 19, 2013

The Al-Aqsa Foundation’s account with the First National Bank of South Africa has been suspended.  The alleged Palestinian relief charity is already blacklisted by the U.S.

An intriguing part of this article is a brief reference to Al-Aqsa opening an account with a second bank, Al-Baraka, after Al-Aqsa was notified that First National Bank would be closing Al-Aqsa’s account.  Al-Aqsa must have believed that Al-Baraka, a branch of the Bahrain-based sharia finance conglomerate known as the Al-Baraka Banking Group, would have been a safe haven for its tainted funds.  However, once the attempt to evade international sanctions by simply opening a new account with a second South African bank was discovered, Al-Baraka has no choice but to suspend Al-Aqsa’s account as well.

In similar developments elsewhere, TCF Financial Corp. is closing the accounts of several Iranian students at the University of Minnesota, and UBS closed a bank account belonging to the UK-based Islamic Relief late last year.

From the Daily Maverick:

Banking woes for SA charity suspected of financing Hamas

The Al Aqsa Foundation has had its banking facilities with two South African banks suspended in recent weeks. Despite being registered with the South African government as a bona fide charity, the foundation is believed to be covertly funnelling funds to Hamas. By KHADIJA PATEL.

The Al-Aqsa Foundation, a charity registered with the Department of Social Development focusing on providing aid to Palestinians has recently had its banking facilities with two South African banks suspended. The Foundation is suspected by the US government to be raising funds for Hamas, the Palestinian resistance movement and governing authority of the Gaza strip.

In December, First National Bank (FNB) issued Al-Aqsa Foundation with three months’ notice before completely shutting its account. In a statement, the CEO of FNB Commercial Banking Michael Vacy-Lyle explained, “It has come to the bank’s attention that the foundation is expressly listed by the US Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and other international sanctions lists.”

The move received widespread condemnation from the South African Muslim community, with at least one prominent cleric calling for a boycott of FNB. The Media Review Network, an organisation focused on the representation of Islam and Muslims in the media, deplored FNB heeding to the dictate of “foreign” agents, despite the Foundation receiving a clean audit from the Department of Social Services.

FNB, however, has sought to dismiss allegations that it has been bullied by the US government into closing the account. The listing is said to have come to the attention of the bank over a year ago during routine internal governance processes, and closing the account is an act of expedience that allows FNB to keep up its relationships with other financial institutions in the US.

Vacy-Lyle said, “The international financial community imposes stringent obligations in respect of the maintenance of banking relationships with entities listed by OFAC and the decision by FNB to terminate its relationship with the foundation is a consequence of this fact alone.”

Annette Hübschle, a researcher focused on the organised crime-terror nexus, said the move to close the Foundation’s account in light of the US listing was revealing of who holds the greatest power in global politics.

Last week it was revealed that another South African bank, Al-Baraka bank, had also frozen an account of the Al-Aqsa Foundation – this account had been opened after FNB had indicated it would be terminating the Foundation’s account.

According to another statement from FNB quoted by Channel Islam International, “The closure is a requirement of global banking governance and is applicable to all South African Banks including Al-Baraka Bank.”

Hübschle agrees. “They have all signed up to the Basel regulations,” she said. “In essence, banks do have to comply, not necessarily with the US, but more if they want to do business in the US then they actually do have to comply.”

She names the example of The Palestinian Relief and Development Fund (Interpal) as a case in point. “In 2003, the US Treasury named Interpal a ‘specially designated global terrorist group’ that directly financed Hamas, while the British Charity Commission gave Interpal a clean bill of health. This perhaps reflects a disagreement about where charity ends and extremism begins,” she said.

The Al-Aqsa Foundation has been described by the United States as a “critical part of Hamas’ transnational terrorist support infrastructure”. According to the US government, Hamas “uses humanitarian relief as cover to provide support to the Hamas terrorist organisation”. Hamas, the governing authority of the Gaza strip, is further designated by the US Secretary of State as a “Foreign Terrorist Organisation”. According to the US, Hamas is known to raise millions of dollars per year throughout the world using charitable fundraising as a cover. Al-Aqsa Foundation is alleged to be one such mask for more nefarious Hamas activity…

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No risk too high for South Africa

March 30, 2012

Here’s more on the South African love affair with Iran.  This time, Avi Jorisch takes on South Africa’s telecommunications powerhouse, MTN, for their deep presence in Iran and their complicity in quashing Iranian dissidents.

Even leaving aside the problem that their business ties could help prop up a regime driven by nuclear ambitions, it is a very foolish decision on MTN’s part.  FATF, the international financial watchdog, has warned that money invested in Iran has an unacceptably high risk of being laundered toward illegal activities.  Why would a responsible business want to take such a risk?

MTN has no business aiding terror in Iran
Allegations that SA cellphone company helps regime persecute opposition

Sunday Times – South Africa
March 25, 2012

MTN has a corporate responsibility to cease doing business with Iran and colluding with a state sponsor of terror that uses its technology to track, silence and kill its people. The South African government should take immediate action to prevent this abuse of the telecommunications industry.

MTN’s business ties to Iran are significant and represent approximately a fifth of the company’s revenue. It has a 49% stake in Iran’s second-largest cellphone operator, MTN-Irancell, which has cornered almost half of the Iranian cellphone market. The remaining 51% is owned by the Iran Electronic Development Company (IEDC), a company affiliated with the Iranian government. Its principal shareholder, Iran Electric Industries, has been blacklisted by both the US Treasury and the European Union for its role in proliferating weapons of mass destruction.

On January 27 an MTN spokesman said that while the company was monitoring events in Iran, it was conducting “business as usual” in the country. Minister of Communications Dina Pule further emphasized that there would be no pressure on MTN to pull out of Iran.

MTN has played a critical role in helping the Iranian regime to hunt down its opposition. In 2009, when Iranians took to the streets to protest President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s election, MTN-Irancell, along with Iran’s other cellphone carriers, reportedly followed government instructions to suspend text messaging and block internet phone services such as Skype, which were used extensively by the opposition movement…

Read it all here.

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South Africa is Iran’s lead energy buyer

February 20, 2012

While the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Australia have joined together in sanctions against Iran, South Africa has not.  In 2010, South Africa bought $22.9 billion in fuel, crude, natural gas, and minerals from Iran.  The quantity easily outstrips purchases by China, the country most often singled out for counterbalancing Western sanctions.  From a Jan. 26 report from the Congressional Research Service using data from the World Trade Atlas:

Table I from the Congressional Research Service report on Iran sanctions

Source: The World Trade Atlas, adapted by Susan Chesser, Knowledge Services Group, CRS.

The report has been followed by a Feb. 8 Associated Press article about South Africa’s involvement with Iran:

South Africa’s close ties to Iran under scrutiny

JOHANNESBURG — The West’s increasing pressure on Iran has meant scrutiny for South African businesses that operate in the Middle Eastern nation accused of having nuclear ambitions.

South African-Iranian political ties have long been close, and that has meant close business ties. A politically connected South African telecommunications company has been accused of pushing Pretoria to support Iran’s nuclear power program. A South African energy and chemicals company is reviewing its Iranian investments. Iranian oil makes up nearly a third of South Africa’s oil imports…

The only good thing about the data is that Germany has slipped in the rankings of Iran’s biggest customers.

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Improper pilgrimage profits: selling hajj visas

October 16, 2011

In a scandal that reaches into the Saudi embassy in South Africa, an undisclosed number of South African hajj operators are under investigation by the South African Haj & Umrah Council (SAHUC) for selling visas to people outside of South Africa’s hajj quota who have not been properly accredited to participate in the hajj.

During an Oct. 5 broadcast, SAHUC secretary general Shaheen Essop told Radio Islam that the matter “goes beyond a hajj scandal; it’s actually a disgrace.”  Take a listen to this three-minute exchange:

Apparently, the hajj operators were bringing paperwork on behalf of non-accredited hujjaj (pilgrims) to the Saudi embassy in South Africa for visas to be issued.  When pressed by the Radio Islam interviewer on whether Saudi embassy employees were involved in the improper visa issuance (which they most certainly were), Essop carefully avoided implicating the Saudis, saying that SAHUC’s investigation will not penetrate the Saudi embassy due to an “administrative issue related to that.”  However, Essop did disclose later in the interview that the Saudi embassy is conducting an internal investigation.

Selling hajj visas for trade is considered impermissible, although the hajj is well-known to produce enormous annual business for tourism and hospitality sectors both in and outside Saudi Arabia.  Hajj swindles have already been uncovered this year in Tajikstan and Lebanon.

Although the hajj will not take place until early November this year, many South African Muslims, including ones who improperly purchased their visas, have already departed for Saudi Arabia.

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Tax breaks for South African sharia

October 27, 2010

South Africa is poised to pass new tax “neutrality” measures for sharia banking.  That means tax changes to encourage what they euphemistically call “foreign direct investment” (FDI).

The Arab News came out with this report late last month:

The South African government’s recent confirmation that it is in the process of introducing tax neutrality laws for Mudaraba (trust financing), Murabaha (cost-plus financing) and Diminishing Musharaka (diminishing shared ownership) contracts is a long overdue recognition of the potential Islamic finance has for the country and the region. Financial services industry sources stress that the proposed tax neutrality measures are just the start and the wider objective is to introduce a comprehensive regulatory and legal framework to facilitate Islamic finance in the country both for financial inclusion and market liberalization and development reasons.

It may also have something to do with the ambition of the country to develop Cape Town into an international financial hub, an ambition which was confirmed by Alan Winde, the finance minister of the provincial government of the Western Cape; and South Africa’s aim of attracting inward foreign direct investment (FDI) from the Middle Eastern countries and others such as Malaysia and Brunei…

Great!  We already have sharia finance hubs in London, Paris… Why not Cape Town?  This was followed up by the Business Report:

The Banker magazine reported recently that few parts of the global financial sector could claim to have continued growing in the past two years like Islamic financial institutions had – namely, asset growth of 64 percent.

It is thus no surprise that South Africa has joined Australia, Hong Kong and the UK and a growing number of non-Muslim countries in developing their Islamic finance sector by changing regulations that level the playing field for these transactions.

To achieve this Revenue will place a new insertion in the Income Tax Act that would take into account Shariah practices which involved profit and risk sharing and forbade the paying or receiving of interest or investment in certain industries.

“In the absence of special rules, the way Shariah transactions are treated for tax purposes creates unfair distortions,” says Islam Today…

Notice that we in the West are steadily changing our “secular” tax laws to accommodate their sharia law?  More on the growth of Islamic finance in South Africa can be found on Shariah Finance Watch here, and the Shia push for khums among South Africans on Money Jihad here.

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Speaker praises “key role” of khums in “jihadi movements”

July 11, 2010

The Ahlul Bait Foundation of South Africa, an umbrella Shia group, hosted Moulana Sayed Aftab Haider in 2007 to lecture their members in an ongoing effort to explain, expand, and export the 20 percent khums tax throughout the world.  The full four-part lecture series is available on their website, but as a service to our readers I’ve culled this four minute excerpt.

What the lecturer is saying is that khums is not charity, that the clergy can spend it any way that darn well please, and that khums is essential to the survival, independence, and propagation of Shia Islam.  Fans of the Iranian Revolution love the khums because it enriched the mullahs and enabled them to take over the country.  Hardcore Shias see Sunni clergy, like Saudi Arabia’s, as illegitimate because they’re funded by the state.

Pay close attention to Moulana Sayed Aftab Haider’s comments that (starting at 42 sec.) “The very survival of Shia [then a dramatic pause] in history greatly depends on this institution of khums” and (starting at 2 min. 31 sec.) “In those jihadi movementskhums played a key role in financing them.”