Posts Tagged ‘Turkey’


Britain cites Turkish transit of Syrian terror cash

October 19, 2015

British authorities have drawn attention to Turkey’s role as a transit point for the illegal flow of money from the U.K. into the hands of terrorists in Syria.  From the new report, “UK national risk assessment of money laundering and terrorist financing,” published by HM Treasury and the Home Office:

…Most recently, police investigations have shown that MSBs [money services businesses] are being used to send funds to Turkey and Egypt, eventually reaching foreign fighters in Syria. Funds are typically broken down in to smaller amounts to avoid the need to provide identification and to avoid detection. Intelligence also indicates that employees have been known to facilitate funds to terrorists through their position within MSBs…

… Amal El-Wahabi was convicted in 2014 for coercing a friend to carry 20,000 Euros (£15,800) to Turkey in an attempt to fund her husband’s jihad for ISIL in Syria…

…Turkey is a key hub for the flow of funds to Syria for terrorist use. Intelligence suggests that cash has been withdrawn from ATMs on the border of Turkey and Syria by foreign fighters engaged in fighting in Syria. Turkey does not control the full length of its land border and there are plentiful routes for smuggling goods and people into Syria. The movement of oil from ISIL controlled areas through a network of middle-men, and the risk of it moving through Turkey, is also of concern…


Iranian billionaire sanctions evader on trial

October 8, 2015

Even leaving aside the terrorist financing and sanctions evasion, Iran’s financial system is as clean as a sewer.  Assets unfrozen by the Iranian nuclear deal aren’t only at risk of being used for nefarious purposes, but are also at risk for theft, mismanagement, and to worsen the corruption of endemic to the Iranian regime and its associates abroad.  This trial in Turkey helps illustrate that point.  From Today’s Zaman:

Iran may confiscate Zanjani’s assets in Turkey-linked graft case

All assets belonging to Babak Zanjani — supposedly the richest businessman in Iran who also has alleged ties with the prime figure in Turkey‘s graft scandal — might be confiscated, as sought in the indictment of his trial, known as the biggest corruption case in Iran’s recent history.

The Turkish daily Hürriyet reported on Monday the third session of the first hearing into Zanjani’s trial, which started on Oct. 3, and cited the Tehran deputy chief prosecutor who continued to be the reader of the 237-page indictment following the first and second sessions that were held on Saturday and Sunday.

While referring to the charges against Zanjani — which are mainly charges of fraud, money laundering and corruption both within Iran and in several other countries, including in Turkey — the deputy chief prosecutor said, “I [therefore] demand the confiscation of all of the defendant’s assets in Iran and other countries, including those assets that have been fraudulently transferred to his associates, in the national interests of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Zanjani, believed to be the richest man in Iran who has reportedly $14 billion in assets, is known for helping the Iranian government evade the Western sanctions that were imposed on the country over its disputed nuclear program.


Update: oil grosses ISIS $8-10m monthly

July 27, 2015

U.S. officials say new figures on oil revenues of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are more accurate than previous estimates.  The new figures suggest ISIS receives about $100 million a year.  NBC reports that the revenues are “three times as much” as previously thought, but that’s not really true.  A 2014 estimate from a Turkish opposition official was of $800 million a year.  So the headline could have been changed to “eight times less,” but it’s still good to have updated information.  From NBC News (h/t Mia):

ISIS Makes Three Times as Much from Oil Smuggling as Previously Thought: Officials

Two U.S. counter-terrorism officials tell NBC News that intelligence gathered from a U.S. raid in Syria details ISIS finances, revealing millions of dollars in oil wealth.

“The more time on target, the better the estimate,” a senior U.S. official told NBC News. U.S. intelligence agencies have spent a lot of “time on target” since the target, ISIS, emerged just over a year ago. As a result, their understanding of the group’s workings is becoming more intimate.

Oil smuggling, much of it to Turkey, is a key source of income for ISIS. The group uses the money in part to pay its fighters monthly salaries and provide stipends to their families. Foreign fighters tend to be the highest paid of the ISIS recruits, earning as much as a $1,000 a month, according to two Syrian sources.

ISIS, unlike al-Qaeda, sees itself as a state, providing an education and welfare system, which means the group has high running costs. Two U.S. counter-terrorism officials now tell NBC News that the amount of money ISIS can earn from selling and smuggling oil and gas is roughly to $8 to $10 million a month. The officials said this is the most accurate information they have had so far, calling previous estimates speculation.

“We have learned more about the internal market. ISIS sells oil and gas everywhere. It sells within Syria, and to the Syrian regime. It sells in Iraq. It is a more extensive and complex market than we assumed,” a senior counter-terrorism official said.


Turkey’s 2014 surge of exports to Syria coincided with surge of of ISIS

July 10, 2015

A recent research paper on the Syrian economy included an instructive revelation.  Chatham House fellow Hayder al-Khoei drew special attention in a tweet to the off-hand but crucial finding in the report: that Syria’s economy grew 80 percent in 2014 due to a spike in Turkish imports that coincided with the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.  Specifically, the report found:

… It is not clear what caused this surge in Turkish exports, but it coincided with the height of the advances by ISIS in both Iraq and Syria, and some of the additional sales could have been accounted for by additional procurement from Turkey by ISIS – for example steel pipes and sections for oil refining projects…  (p. 26)

It won’t be proven in a court of law, but it is clear what Chatham House is suggesting.  It is clear what readers will take from this.  And it has been clear for some time that ISIS would not have been able to surge to such a dominant position in Iraq without extensive cross-border Turkish support.  Money Jihad reported on the very phenomenon of Turkey’s contributions to ISIS almost to the day one year ago.

Hat tip to Moscow Ghost.


Turkey guts cash screening at customs

May 18, 2015

Turkey has revised its customs regulations to the point where one Turkish headline described it as “Unlimited cash entry into Turkey now legalized.” Turkey said the regulations are an improvement compared to the old policy, but experts contacted by Al-Monitor said there was nothing wrong with the previous regulations.

What’s so problematic about this development is that Turkey has been used as a key transit point for money and fighters for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. And that was when there were at least some nominal controls at customs points. Now it appears to be open season.

The other rotten element of this story is that Turkey appears to have waited to change these regulations until just after they came off of the international financial watchdog FATF’s grey list. It’s as though they knew they couldn’t get de-listed with regulations like these, so the bided their time.

Read all about it (h/t @moscow_ghost):

No questions asked about Turkey’s suitcases full of cash

Author Pinar Tremblay Posted May 14, 2015

The Turkish Ministry of Customs and Trade issued new regulations April 15 for entering and leaving Turkey with any amount of cash. The new Customs Code had passed without much public attention until early May, when the news broke with the headlines “Hot money days are over, now starts the black money days” and “Unlimited cash entry into Turkey now legalized.”

Umut Oran, deputy of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), submitted a parliamentarian query asking why the previous Customs Code was replaced with the new code, which would enable suspicious financial transactions, thus increasing the risk for money laundering, terror financing and tax evasion.

In a rather foggy statement, Minister of Customs and Trade Nurettin Canikli said the previous code was unclear, adding there were contradictory clauses in the code, and customs personnel could not be flexible. He said they had only simplified the code. “We had many complaints from exporters bringing money into the country,” Canikli said. “It could be from various countries, such as Iran, Iraq, Syria, the Balkans, where there are no banking services. Frankly, why does it matter if the money comes in cash or through a bank as long as it is money earned from exports? If this is dirty money, it will not be allowed to enter the country. There are no changes with regard to unrecorded cash.”

Yet, all pundits whom Al-Monitor contacted — bankers, customs officials, economists, senior economy editors of reputable news networks — agreed that the vagueness was introduced with the new code, and none were able to see what was wrong with the old code.

The previous Customs Code, which was six pages, was seen as compatible with EU regulations. When questioned about the compatibility of the 2015 codes with the EU, Canikli said, “We are not a member of the EU, we are Turkey.”

Indeed, there is sufficient reason to worry about the 2015 Customs Code, which is two pages shorter than the 2013 version. Yet, with those two deleted pages are red flags. Turkey has been on the gray list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) since 2011. The FATF took Turkey off its list of high-risk and non-cooperative jurisdictions only in October 2014. Turkey came to the brink of suspension of its membership in the FATF in October 2012. In its latest report, the FATF was still concerned with Turkey’s ability to institute a system that would identify and freeze terrorist assets. The report warned about Turkey’s definitions for “terrorism financing” and stated that Turkey’s procedures for freezing the assets of identified groups were too slow.

Emin Capa, CNN Turk’s senior economy editor, told Al-Monitor, “Turkey worked real hard to get off the gray list of the FATF. I doubt the government would enact any legislation that would reverse the decision.” Yet Capa had serious concerns about the new code. “There are three troubling topics. First, the sentence ‘passenger cannot be compelled to make a declaration at customs.’ What does this mean?” he asked. This line was added to the updated 2015 Customs Code, while many other items were excised. This line is indeed contradictory with the inspection regime…



Suggested reading: You can’t afford to play dumb

April 2, 2015
  • The financial crime chief at Istanbul P.D. says Erdogan sheltered an Al Qaeda financier… more>>
  • Pizza businessman Kamran Malik pleads guilty to shipping rifles and rifle parts to Pakistan without a license… more>>
  • Before a U.S. company acquires a foreign business, it should follow this helpful pre-acquisition due diligence checklist… more>>
  • If a country is always in the news along with phrases like “dragged through the street” or “human shield” you might want to do some screening before taking on business partners there… more>>

ISIS oil smuggling routes visualized

March 10, 2015

It’s not easy to depict the movement of terrorists’ money on maps. But the folks at Geopolitical Atlas have taken a good stab at it with respect to black market oil routes operated by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Their map illustrates how ISIS territory, Syrian and Iraqi oil fields, ISIS-controlled highways, and porous borders with neighboring sympathizers overlap:

Islamic State money pipelines

Hat tip to @skinroller for sending this over.


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