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Apr 18 2019

U.S. designates IS financial network working in Turkey

The United States Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated six individuals and a currency exchange company with offices in Turkey, Syria for their roles as conduit for the Islamic State financial network. 

The U.S. Treasury stated:

In that action, OFAC designated Iraq-based MSB Afaq Dubai, and the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) released details regarding its support to a joint Iraqi Special Operations Forces and Kurdish Counter Terrorism Forces action against members of the Rawi Network who leveraged Afaq Dubai to facilitate the movement of funds for ISIS.

A research analyst at the Washington D.C.-based think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), Merve Tahiroglu, wrote in an analysis of the OFAC's latest designation:

Ankara’s failure to crack down on jihadist networks in Turkey is a matter of choice, not incompetence. Since a failed coup attempt threatened his grip on power in 2016, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has employed all government and judicial institutions under his control to purge dissidents from the Turkish state and bureaucracy. Ankara has jailed more than 150,000 dissidents – including journalists, academics, and artists – on spurious charges of terrorism. Yet jihadists detained in Turkey are often released without charges or receive lenient sentences – especially compared to government critics.

 

In a podcast with Ahval's Yavuz Baydar and Ilhan Tanir, Tahiroğlu said, it appears from the latest designation that the ISIS networks well into 2018 using hawala & other methods to funnel money to ISIS leaders in Iraq and Syria from Turkey. Therefore, this week's OFAC designation shows that ISIS continued to operate from Turkey well into 2018, 

While Ankara boasts of its commitment to defeating the Islamic State, Turkey continues to be a major jurisdiction for illicit finance – evident also in its facilitation of Iranian and Venezuelan sanctions evasion schemes.

Tahiroğlu also underlined the fact that Turkey arrested over 150,000 people since 2016 coup attempt, most of whose main sin was to oppose the Turkish government, while failed to seriously cracked down on these illicit jihadi networks.

Previously, Reza Zarrab, an Iranian-Turkish gold trader who was charged with evading U.S. sanctions against Iran with the help of Turkish officials, had pleaded guilty and cooperated as a witness for the U.S. government against an official at the Turkish state-owned Halkbank.

Turkey's exports to embattled Venezuela tripled in 2018, seeing a 223 percent rise compared to the previous year, state-run Anadolu Agency reported earlier in the year. Venezuela is sending gold to Turkey to avoid possible confiscation under international sanctions, Hurriyet newspaper reported

Tahiroglu added, 

Rather than jailing dissident academics, journalists, and opposition politicians, Ankara should instead focus its law enforcement resources on the jihadist networks and financiers who threaten Turkey’s national security.

Tahiroglu also said, Turkey becoming a major jurisdiction for illicit financing from Venezuela and Iran.