Police in Germany have conducted major raids across the country today in an operation to bust a financial network suspected of laundering millions to Turkey and Syria, in what is the latest crackdown in Europe on the potential covert funding of militant groups.
The operation carried out by Dusseldorf police—involving over a thousand officers in the three states of North Rhine-Westphalia, Lower Saxony and Bremen during the early hours of the morning— raided the sites of individuals connected to the network, arresting 11 people, including a 39-year-old Syrian man accused of being a member of the Nusra Front militant group in northern Syria.
The financial network targeted by the police is known as the ‘hawala network,’ which is reportedly an informal form of money transfer services across the world and popular amongst Muslim-majority societies, facilitated by a network of money brokers who transfer wealth from one place to another.
In this case, according to a police statement, the individuals in this ‘hawala network’ laundered money through means of illegal activities such as extortion and armed robbery, making the estimated volume of transactions conducted by the network around 140 million Euros ($162 million) since 2016.
During the raids, the police seized valuables worth over 2 million Euros ($2.4 million) such as gold, jewels, luxury cars and watches. According to reports, the individuals were transferring the acquired wealth to Turkey and Syria in order to fund criminal networks and militant groups.
The raiding operation by German police is the latest of such measures taken by Berlin and other European states against underground unregulated money transfer methods to allegedly fund militant groups over the past few years.
In May this year, German authorities also charged an immigrant over accusations that he sent funds to the terror group, Daesh, and, last year, French police carried out an operation to arrest dozens of individuals suspected of funding groups through cryptocurrencies.