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US reveals key ISIS money provider based in Turkey

Daesh (ISIS) (thierry ehrmann/Flickr)

Washington has identified a critical financial facilitator for Daesh based in Turkey in a move to unsettle the remaining global financial networks of the terrorist group.

In a statement on Tuesday, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said that the Daesh facilitator, Adnan Muhammad Amin Al-Rawi, had materially assisted, sponsored or provided financial, material or technological support for — or goods or services to or in support of — Daesh.

“This action coincides with the 13th meeting of the Counter Daesh Finance Group (CIFG), which includes over 60 countries and international organizations, and plays a fundamental role in coordinating efforts to deny Daesh access to the international financial system and eliminate its sources of revenue,” the statement read.

The Treasury requires that all property and interests in property of relevant individuals that are in the US or in the possession or control of US persons must be blocked and reported to the OFAC.

In the meantime, any foreign financial institution that deliberately conducts or facilitates any substantial transaction on behalf of individuals and entities designated by OFAC is likely to be subject to US sanctions.

Hidden Daesh cells are known to be active in Turkey. On July 19, Turkish police detained 27 people in 15 districts of Istanbul with links to Daesh whom they suspect were preparing to carry out a terror attack.

According to Colin Clarke, senior research fellow on terror financing networks with the Soufan Group, financial networks of Daesh unsurprisingly remain active in Turkey, given the way that Daesh prepared for the collapse of the caliphate.

“Daesh has laundered its illicit proceeds in Turkey through money-service businesses and middlemen looking to profit from ill-gotten gains. I think Daesh financial networks could potentially help sustain the group for the next decade,” he told Arab News.

Since last year, Turkey’s financial crimes watchdog MASAK has been going after the terror group’s illegal money transfer system, targeting suspects who they accuse of directing to Daesh international money transfers using the “Hawala” chain system. Turkish- and Syrian-based jewelry firms or exchange offices are believed to act as front companies for such illegal money transfers.

Last November, Washington blacklisted three Turkey-based companies and two Turkish individuals based in Turkey over charges of providing financial and logistical support for Daesh in Syria and Iraq through currency exchange offices and import-export operations. The sanctions are meant to freeze any US assets held by targeted individuals and companies and to forbid Americans from doing business with them.

“The geographical defeat of Daesh in March 2019 did not mean putting an end to the reasons behind its emergence and the conditions in which it flourished. These include political, social and religious grievances; repressive governance; as well as the security vacuum,” Orwa Ajjoub, affiliated researcher at the Center for Middle Easter Studies at Lund University, told Arab News.

According to Ajjoub, the loss of its territory has disrupted the group’s main sources of income such as oil revenues and tax collection. However, Daesh has found new ways to support itself such as limited legitimate businesses, smuggling, donations, kidnapping for ransom and extortion of

wealthy individuals in the areas in which it operates in the Eastern desert of Syria and the border region between Syria and Iraq.

“The international community realizes that drying up (Daesh’s) financial resources is a major factor in neutralizing the group’s military operations. Therefore, CIFG has been monitoring and sanctioning some money transfer offices that are involved in illegitimate activities and operate in both Syria and Iraq,” he said.

Ajjoub thinks that the difficulty in achieving this lies in the ability to monitor the process of transferring remittances from the point of sending them to the moment they are received by beneficiaries.

“Other ways of channeling resources to Daesh fighters include social media campaigns and donations in cryptocurrency, which require rigorous cybersecurity measures to contain,” he said.


© 2020 the Arab News