Business (The Times Groupe)- Since the Islamic fanatics seized the government in 1979, they have sought to establish a financial channel throughout the globe to advance their goals, by exporting the Islamic Revolution, fomenting and spreading terrorism in the world, interfering with other states’ affairs. Needless to say, the most crucial goal of the Islamic Republic is to escape from internal crises that threaten its integrity.
Not only do Ayatollahs’ financial crimes endanger peace and security in the Middle East, but it turns to an Achilles Heel for developed countries due to their negligence and imprudence.
Let’s break down how Tehran keeps a grip on the cash flows and financial networks to the west for its ambitions.
Iran’s economy is controlled by FTO-IRGC, and lots of criminal money is infiltrating into the economy in many ways.
If you’re asking how, well, by laundering money through restaurants, money exchanges, NGOs, and small businesses!
Based on evidence, 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.
But, as Tehran puts the international financial system at risk and is not acceding to the required international conventions as stipulated by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), FATF has blacklisted the Islamic Republic for its involvement in money laundering. Tehran, however, shares several factors of illicit funds resources, for example, arms smuggling, corruption, fraud, embezzlement, narcotics trafficking, and currency counterfeiting.
One of the main sources of Tehran laundering funds is derived from trade in illicit narcotics across the Middle East and throughout the globe. Along with Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Islamic Republic is the state creating the ‘Golden Triangle’ of the international drug trade.
Besides, 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.
All the illegal activities mentioned above mostly are being operated by IRGC’s overseas Quds Forces.
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 passports or residence permits in the United States, Canada, the UK, and the EU. Most of them are involved in money laundering for the Islamic Republic. Before signing the so-called Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) aka Iran Deal, Obama’s administration had granted citizenship to 2500 Iranians as an encouragement.
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. But, based on our research, a ballpark figure would be more than US$19 trillion.
How Tehran’s Bag Man Works!
Tehran bag man uses a simple method, but complicated, and challenging to trace. The first stage is placement whereby ‘The Dirty’ money is placed into the legal, financial systems. This is where dirty money is washed and disguised by being put 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 inception.
Later, the 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 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 used for transferring 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 travelers 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 canceled, 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, via real estate, stock exchange, buying foreign currencies, purchasing luxury goods, and many other more. 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 when there is 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.
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 plunged into crisis and corruption.
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 countries such as Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Venezuela, Cuba, China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, Switzerland, Central Asia, Eastern Europe, and some African countries. These countries play a significant role in the placement stage or layering. But the big question is, why these countries?! Even if the mentioned countries have signed any sort of International law or treaties, they do not adhere to them! For example, they give the green light to transfer money from/into their countries, but of course, until it was not publicly known. After the story is revealed, they readily sacrifice people and throw them under the bus to get their own happy ending!
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, foreign exchange companies or banks around the world, which makes it more difficult to track.
Who’s To Blame?
Most of the world’s 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 some of the 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.