Terrorist Financing for ISIS using online Payment Processors and MSBs from US Routed to Turkey and Saudi Arabia
The USDOJ indicted six people this week for terrorist financing who are alleged to have used money services businesses to finance the Islamic State (“ISIS“) and to supply war-related goods to members of ISIS.
According to the Indictment, Abdullah Pazara, a former Bosnian foreign national, who became an American citizen, defected from the United States in May 2013, to join ISIS. In order to get to Syria, he first traveled to Croatia then Syria and began fighting for al Qaeda, then ISIS on the front lines.
On March 20, 2014, he allegedly confessed to having participated in an ISIS attack in which 11 people were killed and directed sympathizers in the US to watch videos evidencing ISIS’ reign of terror. He is charged with terrorist financing for having supplied money, monetary instruments and property to terrorist organizations, and for having supplied funding for the purposes of murdering and maiming people. He is also charged with conspiracy to kill people in a foreign country. Paraza is believed to be with ISIS or to have been killed.
The indictment also alleges that other defendants, including Siki Ramiz Hodzic and his wife, Sedina Unkic Hodzic, communicated on Facebook to post terrorist propaganda for al Qaeda, then ISIS, in support of their terrorist activities, extolling the so-called virtues of the activities of US foreign fighters such as Pazara in Syria against, inter alia, what they typically describe as kufars (a derogatory term used by terrorists to refer to people in the West).
During 2013, Mediha Salkicevic, Jasminka Ramic, and Armin Harcevic are alleged to have transferred money on multiple occasions through PayPal and Western Union to Hodzic’s bank account, which was used to buy army gear that Hodzic shipped to ISIS. In order to ship goods to ISIS, the natural route is to ship to Turkey.
Gaziantep, Turkey used as Conduit
The porous border between Turkey and Islamic State controlled areas means that persons, including defectors, and goods can travel easily back and forth. One of the towns used for ISIS shipments was Gaziantep, Turkey.
The Indictment says that funds paid to Hodzic in multiple transactions through PayPal and other sources during 2013 by the defendants were sent to al Qaeda, then ISIS through Western Union and in order for ISIS beneficiaries to be able to receive the funds, were routed to a conduit country, namely Turkey, then transferred to the terrorist organizations. A Western Union agent in Gaziantep was the destination for the receipt of the funds.
Hodriz’ spouse, Sedina Hodzic, is also alleged to have funded ISIS in 2014 by sending funds using Western Union to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, another conduit state used by terrorist organizations for funding. The funds were transferred to Paraza for the use of ISIS.
The Indictment also alleges that Hodzic arranged for $600 to be sent to Bosnia using Western Union for a person to join ISIS, or for their traveling expenses to get to Syria. This seems to confirm the allegation by Yousaf al-Salafi, the alleged ISIS recruiter in Pakistan, that ISIS pays $600 per defector to recruitment agents that send foreign fighters to join them (as explained here), and that some of those transactions may have been routed through the US financial system, as al-Salafi alleged.