By John Fanning
Even prior to the attack on the World Trade Center, white papers authored by scholars, government agencies and private organizations detailed how governments around the world were funding terrorism. Newspaper articles periodically appeared in major U.S. publications detailing money-laundering methodologies and leaders around the world expressed their concerns for money-laundering schemes benefiting terrorist groups.
While much has been done since 2001 to tighten U.S. banking regulations and increase reporting requirements by banks, money continues to flow into the hands of terrorists throughout the world. In many cases, the funneling of money remains as simple and blatant as it was when former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher asked President Ronald Reagan to put a stop to Irish-American groups collecting money by passing the hat at social gatherings, claiming that proceeds were to aid the families of Irish political prisoners when, in fact, the money went to arming IRA terrorists. In other cases, highly sophisticated financial schemes are being undertaken that involve collusion on the part of corporations and financial institutions acting on a global scale, involving billions of dollars.
Last year, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) announced the uncovering of a major international scheme headed by Lebanese Hezbollah’s External Security Organization, Business Affairs Component (BAC), that used funds from drug trafficking to purchase weapons and underwrite other activities. According to one former DEA Operations Chief, Hezbollah has developed a highly sophisticated global smuggling operation that includes working with South American and European drug cartels and organizations.
The BAC scheme came to light following an investigation into money-laundering activities at the Lebanese Canadian Bank that resulted in a $102 million settlement with the Manhattan U.S. Attorney in 2013. While that amount may seem substantial to most Americans, it is a slap on the wrist when compared to the $1.9 billion settlement agreed to in 2012 by British-owned HSBC bank to put to bed allegations of money laundering on behalf of Hezbollah, a practice that, according to Everett Stern, a former whistleblower at HSBC and the current CEO of Tactical Rabbit, a private intelligence firm, continues today.
Speaking to InfraGard Magazine, Stern explained how the money-laundering operation worked at HSBC. Essentially, supervisors at the bank would change the code identifiers so that fund transfers to a flagged account would go through when they shouldn’t. Changing the code identifier was a very simple process. For example, the code for a particular customer could be five numbers. Putting a period or dash in between any of the numbers or at the front or back of the code would “trick” the wire filters into not recognizing the code of a “flagged” customer.
Money enters the HSBC banking system from corporations and high-income individuals made payable to individuals or entities such as Tajco, a Lebanon-based construction and real estate firm. As early as December 2010, the U.S. Treasury identified Tajco as a front used by its owners to funnel money to the Lebanese-based terror group, Hezbollah.
According to Treasury officials, “Tajco is a multipurpose, multinational business venture involved in international trade as well as real estate, and presided over by Ali, Husayn and Kassim Tajideen. Since at least 2007, Tajco has funneled millions of dollars to Hezbollah, who uses the money to buy arms for their ongoing campaign of terror directed at Israel, and to expand their influence in the Middle East.
U.S. counterterror forces believe that since at least December 2007, Ali Tajideen used the Tajco Company LLC to purchase and develop properties in Lebanon on behalf of Hezbollah. Ali Tajideen developed the properties, established mortgage loans and acquired mortgage-life insurance to cover the mortgage borrowers. Since at least March 2006, Husayn Tajideen owned 50 percent of Tajco Ltd, in Banjul, Gambia, and served as the managing director of the company.
The Gambia connection extends to Kairaba Supermarkets, a company operating throughout Gambia that is a subsidiary business of Tajco Ltd. Husayn Tajideen is the same point of contact and manager for the grocery chain and both it and Tajco use the same primary business address in Gambia.
According to Stern, the Kairaba Supermarket connection is a key element in the funneling of money to terrorists. It can launder drug money coming from Central and South America, and then deliver it back to Lebanon.