German police raid Turkey-linked illegal banking network

German authorities have carried out raids on an organised international network allegedly engaging in illegally transferring millions of euros to Turkey, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported on Tuesday.

Police searched 60 apartments as part of an early morning raid and six arrests warrants have been issued for 27 suspects in the case, it said.

The suspects are accused of setting up and running a hawala system, money transfer without money movement, and building up an informal network of bank accounts across Europe and in Turkey, which evades detection of money transfers.

Up to €1 million was transferred through the informal network daily and more than €200 million ($222.4 million) in total, according to investigators. 

Police raided jewellers, precious metal companies as well as private apartments in North Rhine-Westphalia, Hesse, Berlin and the Netherlands following a year-long investigation led by a special division of the state criminal investigations office, Deutsche Welle reported.

Hawala systems (hawala meaning transfer in Arabic) involves depositing into the bank account of a network participator in one country with another operator withdrawing the equivalent amount in the country the money was intended for.

Since no money is electronically transferred, it stays within that country at all times. 

Most payments were to Turkey rather than to Germany, but in order for bank accounts in Turkey to remain balanced, the banking ring established an additional cash transfer system, Deutsche Welle cited German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung as saying. 

The accused are believed to have sold the precious metals to a part-Turkish-owned metal-processing company, whose accounts were used to transfer money to Turkey.  

According to the German Payment Services Oversight Act (ZAG), it is forbidden to offer services similar to a bank without a banking license and violation of the act carries up to a five-year prison sentence.