(Times Of Ocean)- The Times Of Ocean (TO) investigates how Ayatollahs and IRGC have formed Aristocracy in Iran, and send their children, relatives and agents to the West to reap Tehran’s benefits.
Tyrants who have occupied Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution bash the US, UK, and EU, but they do not mind sending them to the so-called hostile states when it comes to their children and close relatives.
Kids of Islamic Hostage-Takers are schooled by western countries who have been blamed by officials in Tehran in the past four decades and called ‘Great Satan’.
But, it is not the whole story. Tehran uses them as an excellent opportunity to helm a financial network and flow revenues to the West for its ambitions, for example, funding terrorist activities.
Iran’s economy is controlled by FTO-IRGC and lots of criminal money is infiltrating into the economy, in many means.
How? By laundering money through restaurants, money exchanges, NGOs and small businesses.
Though, many restaurants and small businesses involved in money laundering are legitimate businesses with cooks, a waitstaff, a menu, and real profits. The intermingling of legitimate profits with proceeds from illegal activities (like drugs, arms smuggling, human trafficking, and selling illicit oil) constitutes money laundering.
Based on research, the Islamic authorities, public figures, IRGC members and close relative ties with the Islamic officials are the primary sources of money laundering activities, both in Iran and abroad. The main destinations of laundered funds are investments abroad, gold, foreign currencies, stock exchange, real estate, and purchases of luxury goods.
However, as Tehran puts the international financial system at risk and in not accede to the required international conventions as stipulated by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), FATF blacklisted the Islamic Republic for its involvement with money laundering. But, Tehran shares several factors of illicit funds resources, for example, arms smuggling, corruption, fraud, embezzlement, narcotics trafficking, currency counterfeiting.
One of the main sources of Tehran laundering funds is principally derived from trade in illicit narcotics across the Middle East and throughout the globe. The Islamic Republic along with Afghanistan and Pakistan are the states making up the ‘Golden Triangle’ of the international drugs trade.
Moreover, the Islamic Republic’s political leadership has been associated with terrorism-related money laundering for decades. According to the verified reports by European Union, the United States, and the FATF, Lebanon’s Hizbullah, Iraq’s Hashado Shabi, Yemen’s Ansarollah, Hamas, and several militia groups are on Tehran’s payroll, and the related-organizations have never had good monitoring on it.
However, the taxonomy of money laundering in Iran is more nuanced than the general critique FATF and Palermo and Terrorist Financing Conventions suggest.
IRGC’s overseas Quds Forces mostly operate all the illegal activities mentioned above.
Westerners should be seized of the matter. Right now, thousands of people who have close relative ties with the Islamic officials in Iran have received passport or residence permit in the United States, Canada, UK, and EU. Before signing the so-called Joint Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran Deal, Obama’s administration had granted citizenship to 2500 Iranians as encouragement.
Thousands of people who have close relative ties with Islamic officials live worldwide and run their own businesses, which are undoubtedly used as a cover for laundering money.
#where_is_your_kid? is the hashtag Iranians have used to turn their anger on ‘the rich kids’ of regime officials. As Iranian people are facing the effects of financial difficulties and poverty, officials benefit from nepotism and oligarchy, and even their relatives have benefited from support for the regime. Children of Islamic officials live rich lives in the West while Iranian people grapple with poverty, inflation and financial problems.
Even, in 2019, a group of forty members of the Islamic Consultative Assembly in Iran debated a motion to force family members of high-level government employees to return from abroad and live in Iran. But, it was rejected as many officials whose children live abroad broke down the plan.
Estimate Of Dirty-Money Transactions
In mid-May, news releases revealed ‘Bahrain’s public prosecutors had uncovered a $1.3 billion money-laundering racket linked to officials at Future Bank and other Iranian institutions — including its central bank.’ Al-Buainain said that Future Bank officials, together with other Iranian bank officials and the Central Bank of Iran, were involved in transferring money through an unauthorized remittance system, Al Arabiya reported.
In mid-January, a Canadian newspaper reported ‘a Toronto-based conspiracy to ship goods to Iran in violation of sanctions involved the movement of money through banks in the Middle East and Africa, an indictment unsealed in the United States alleges.’ As part of the alleged conspiracy, financial transactions were allegedly routed through the United Arab Emirates, Uganda, China, Turkey and Canada in what US prosecutors said was money-laundering, Global News wrote.
In mid-September, the US Department of Justice announced ‘three Florida residents have been charged in federal district court in Miami with crimes related to their alleged violations of US sanctions on Iran, and money laundering.’ The Florida company Express Gene, which the defendants operated, had received numerous wire transfers from accounts in Malaysia, the People’s Republic of China, Singapore, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates, totalling almost $3.5 million.
In mid-June, a Georgian state-run website announced ‘five individuals have been detained, and one Iranian citizen is wanted for laundering about $41 million and involvement in illegal entrepreneurship.’ The Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia said in total, $15.38 million, €20.78 million and 1.26 million GEL was laundered in 2016-2020.
As reported by Turkish Hurriyet Daily News in December, Reza Zarrab, the Turkish-Iranian businessman arrested in 2016 for violating US sanctions and money laundering, lives in a $3.6 million apartment and has been investing in thoroughbreds and equestrian centers in Miami.
Canada; Tehran’s State-Sponsored Terrorism Hub
After the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) raided the currency shop of Farzam Mehdizadeh in 2016, Canadian authorities found out Mehdizadeh was involved in money-laundering and laundered $100 million in Montreal and Toronto in a single year. He was reportedly involved in drug-money laundering.
Early May, Al Arabiya News Network reported it gained access to some of the evidence collected by an investigative team that the Islamic Republic and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah have been involved in money-laundering, gambling and narcotics smuggling through casinos in Vancouver and ‘Canadian government has set up an investigative team to probe the network, affiliating with Tehran and the Lebanese Hezbollah.’
Late January, press releases wrote ‘Canada has failed to stop money launderers dealing with the Islamic Republic.’ ‘Ottawa is failing to police Toronto-based underground currency exchanges facilitating money transfers with the Islamic Republic, which the United States sanctions,’ Iranian-Canadian community leaders and anti-money laundering experts have told Canadian television station Global News.
Former RCMP anti-money laundering expert Garry Clement believes global money launderers have turned Canada into a hub for Tehran’s state-sponsored terror financing because of Canada’s lax enforcement.
Now, there are over 70 currency shops just in Toronto’s Iranian community, some of which are considered to be involved in underground transfers with Tehran.
According to the National Post, ‘dirty money’ is estimated to flow into real estate and other ventures in Canada annually to the tune of $133 billion.
Is the UK Another Hub?
According to the National Crime Agency (NCA) in the United Kingdom, it is estimated that £100bn of dirty money is laundered through London each year.
Following Everett Stern’s actions as a whistleblower at HSBC, the London-based bank shelled out a record $1.9 billion fine to allow itself to be used to launder drug money and violate sanctions law by doing business with Iran, Libya, Sudan, Myanmar and Cuba.
As there is no law prohibiting British banks from receiving funds from Iran or Iranian-related money, the UK could potentially be one of the centers of money-laundering for the Islamic Republic because it’s not illegal for you to instruct money exchange companies in Iran to transfer your funds. As transferring funds from Iran to UK banks can be a complex matter with potential legal pitfalls and risks, the money-launderers would definitely use money exchange institutes.
Bugs And Challenges!
The employees, senior management and authorities easily can manipulate wire filters to allow payments to flow to and from sanctioned parties or countries and get money to terrorists and drug cartels. Of course, they have been transferring a lot of money doing this.
In 2017, The British Guardian reported ‘a scheme Tehran allegedly used to evade sanctions through a state-owned bank in Turkey has been detailed in court by a businessman who claimed officials had been aware of the billion-dollar operation.
From European governments to Britain and the United States and Canada, everyone, or at least some individuals in the governments, is aware of how criminal and terrorism-related money are being transferred in their financial systems.
According to studies, dozens of world’s largest metropolitan areas by population have become richly earned cities as a money-laundering hub for international swindlers, drug dealers and well-connected high rollers who have helped turn the cities into the safest haven for funds launderers.
Only more than $100 billion of dirty money annually flows into Canada alone, or more than £100bn of dirty money is laundered through London each year. Although it’s estimated figures, the correct amount is more than what has been claimed. Now, imagine how many big-money boltholes and laundering schemes are in process in more than 190 countries. Estimate how much stashed money is being transferred throughout the globe as much as $133 billion in dirty money makes its way into only Canadian real estate and other ventures every year. A ballpark figure would be more than US$19 trillion.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), between US$800 billion and US$2 trillion, 2-5% of global GDP, are being laundered every year across the globe.
How Tehran’s Bag Man Works!
Tehran bag man uses a simple method, but complicated, challenging to trace. The first stage is placement whereby ‘dirty’ money is placed into the legal, financial systems. This is where dirty money is washed and disguised by being placed into legitimate economic systems, such as offshore accounts. An army of shady characters as launderers move the cash from illegal sources or stashed money which acquired funds through robbery, bribery and corruption, financial criminals move the money from its source.
Thereafter, launderers use offshore techniques to move the money into financial systems through a complex web of transactions, whereby small businesses, such as tanning salons, car washes or casinos, blend illegal funds with legitimate takings. But, they have to make it difficult for officials to monitor or detect laundering activities. How? By darkening the audit trail through the strategic layering of financial transactions and fraudulent bookkeeping. Layering as the main significant stage is an intricate element of money laundering Procedures, which creates multiple financial transactions to mask original sources and ownership of illegal funds. Further, ‘invoice fraud’ is one of the most common techniques to transfer dirty money. Smurfing is another money-laundering technique, involving structuring large quantities of cash into multiple small transactions. Dirty money can also be laundered by carrying small sums of cash abroad by travellers or companies’ agents below the customs declaration threshold. Money is given to a lawyer or accountant to hold until a proposed transaction is done. The transaction is then cancelled, and the amount is repaid to the criminal from an unassailable source.
Finally, launderers take a flying leap over the fragile financial system to integrate the money. The integration is the last stage of money laundering where the money is absorbed into the economy, for instance, via real estate, stock exchange, buying foreign currencies, and purchasing luxury goods. The funds will be integrated back into a legitimate financial system as ‘legal’ tender once the dirty money has been placed and layered. Then, it reunited with Tehran’s agents with what appears to be a legitimate source. All three stages, placement, layering and integration are being done by overlapping. No law enforcement or anti-crime agency can catch the launderers or criminals with no trace or documentation to use as evidence from the previous stages.
Money Laundering Via Crypto
Cryptocurrency is the most sophisticated method which launderers use to move or place dirty money into the economy. As technological advancements have given criminals faster and safer choices to wash or integrate ill-gotten money, launderers use a variety of strategies involving cryptocurrency to conceal the illegitimate origin of payments. A bag man can use cryptocurrency to layer financial transactions in many countries, whether authorities restrict it or not. Nowdays, there is no doubt that cryptocurrencies are being used to facilitate and boost money laundering.
Experts, however, claim crypto transactions are more transparent and accountable than fiat currencies, but many criminals and malign states, like the Islamic Republic and its satellite terrorist organizations worldwide, take advantage of crypto exchanges to place and integrate money. Digital currencies’ advisors mostly believe ‘money-laundering with crypto is highly sophisticated and precarious, making it a futile strategy compared to conventional techniques.’
According to MIT Technology Review Magazine’s report, in 2019 criminal entities moved US$2.8 billion in Bitcoin to exchanges, up from around $1 billion in 2018. More than half of that went to the two most popular ones, Binance and Huobi, it says.
As of 2019, the total bitcoin spending on the dark web amounted to US$829 million, or 0.5% of all bitcoin transactions.
Further, studies analyzed more than 56% of all crypto exchanges worldwide have weak KYC (Know Your Customer) identification protocols — with exchanges in Europe, the US and the UK among the worst offenders, as 60% of European Virtual Asset Service Providers have deficient KYC practices.
Crypto Mixing services, also known as tumblers, help cryptocurrency users to conduct transactions by mixing their cryptos with other users.
Criminals also use Peer-to-peer Crypto networks to transmit funds to a different location, frequently in other countries, with lax anti-money laundering laws. By converting cryptocurrency into fiat currency, these exchanges allow individuals to purchase high-end goods.
Also, in many countries, KYC measures for the use of these machines are poorly enforced, so criminals can also use Crypto ATMs to trade cryptocurrencies for cash.
Criminals use Online Gambling sites as well as they accept payments in cryptocurrencies. Then, criminals can purchase chips with cryptos and cash them out after a few transactions.
By Suitcase And By Wire
Money launderers use shell companies or even suitcases and smuggle piles of cash in and out of countries with systematic corruption — most of it during a financial crisis.
Shell companies secretly handle billions of money in suspicious wire transactions.
The criminals target those companies which are located in the countries where their economies plunge into crisis and corruption.
Launderers’ networks also smuggle as much as millions of dollars into countries, much of it stashed in suitcases.
Suitcases of cash mostly are carried by high ranked officials – who have diplomatic immunity. They stuff a significant amount of cash into suitcases and try to board flights to the countries such as Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Venezuela, Cuba, China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, Swiss, Central Asia, Eastern Europe, and some African countries. These countries play a significant role in the placement stage or layering. You may ask why these countries. Because these countries largely do not adhere to international law and treaties, even if they have signed them. For example, they give the green light to transfer money from/into their countries, of course, until it was not publicly known. After the story is revealed, they readily sacrifice people and throw them under the bus to lead to a good ending.
Senior proxy groups’ leaders frequently have been gifted million dollars, in cash and stuffed into suitcases at airports, by none other than Tehran’s own senior officials. For example, during Ahmadinejad presidency, dead-terrorist IRGC Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani stuffed suitcases, containing over $22 million of cash, and gave them to Hamas Officials at the Iranian airport.
However, the contracting countries settle some of their debt for oil imports from Iran by paying it off by bartering goods, but Tehran takes its oil money cash and moves it into Iran by stuffed suitcases or by IRGC highspeed boats from the regional countries.
The main destination of laundered money is the property market, where they can easily integrate dirty money and assets are channeled through a variety of companies or foreign exchange companies or banks all over the world, making it more difficult to track.
Who’s To Blame?
The world’s most dangerous threat is when evil is equipped with wealth and knowledge. The Axis of Evil will definitely become a form of Axis of Power if it has access to financial resources and expertise. It can even become an Evil Empire as time goes by.
The Islamic Republic has notched up its success, impacting international sanctions by money-laundering.
There are thousands of people throughout the globe involved with money laundering in favor of Ayatollahs in Iran. However, some of whom were later to end up landing in jails on charges related to their services for Mullahs.
But, it seems there’s no determination to confront launderers, or at least the international efforts to tackle money-laundering are “highly fragmented” and need greater focus as world leaders and their Intelligence services worldwide, most notably the CIA, are involved in money laundering.
The critical question is, how are such launderers move the cash from illegal sources, and how do they proliferate under the noses of those countries – which have made a commitment to the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering – and anti-money-laundering organizations.