Money laundering probe: Hundreds arrested in Turkey

So far, about 216 suspects have been detained in operations across 40 cities. (AP)
Updated 03 October 2018

Money laundering probe: Hundreds arrested in Turkey

  • Turkish prosecutors ordered the detention of some 417 suspects
  • The majority of the funds’ recipients were Iranian citizens residing in the US

ANKARA:Turkey has initiated raids across several cities in an investigation into one of the biggest money laundering attempts in the country’s history which involves Iranians. 

On Tuesday, Turkish prosecutors ordered the detention of some 417 suspects who allegedly transferred about 2.5 billion Turkish liras’ ($419 million) worth of foreign currency to foreign bank accounts. 

The majority of the funds’ recipients were Iranian citizens residing in the US, according to a statement from Istanbul’s chief prosecutor. 

Tehran has not yet given any reaction on the financial probe. 

Facing a serious currency crisis, with lira falling about 40 percent against the dollar in 2018, Turkey is nowadays attaching great importance to the issue of foreign money transfers. 

Those who transferred the money starting on Jan. 1, 2017, with sums of 5,000 liras and more, are accused of targeting the economic and financial security of Turkey and financing terrorism. Another charge made is receiving commission for sending the money to 28,088 foreign accounts.

So far, about 216 suspects have been detained in operations across 40 cities. 

In a speech made in April, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also warned against sending money abroad for purposes other than investment and developing business, trade and investments. 

A US court recently sentenced Mehmet Hakan Atilla, a Turkish banker at the state-controlled Halkbank, to 32 months in prison after he was convicted of involvement in a scheme to help Iran evade US sanctions.

“This operation is not aimed at foreign exchange transfers of residents in Turkey to accounts abroad,” Turkish presidential adviser Cemil Ertem tweeted after the operation. “It is against terror financing related to the foreign exchange being transferred for terror group members who are residing abroad,” 

According to Gulriz Sen, an Iranian expert from TOBB University of Economics and Technology in Ankara, the latest incident in Turkey seems related to recent economic developments inside Iran, which also started a crackdown by sentencing three men to death and imprisoning more than 30 others for financial crimes.

“Both Turkey and Iran have seen their currencies plummeting in the past few months,” Sen told Arab News. “In Iran’s case, President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and the uncertainties regarding the future of Western investments in Iran, as well as Iran’s ability to export its oil without market disruption, played a major role.

“Furthermore, Iranian authorities arrested the former deputy head of Iran’s Central Bank responsible for foreign exchange affairs and questioned former Central Bank Governor Valiollah Seif, who was put under US sanctions in July and later dismissed by President Rouhani at the height of the currency crisis.” 

Sen believes that Turkey’s move may be in coordination with Iran. “On the latest occasion, money transfers ending up in Iranian accounts based in the US bring to mind the perennial problem of financial transactions between Iran and the US due to US sanctions. Turkey may have served as a medium to circumvent these difficulties,” she underlined.

US believes Daesh likely responsible for Manbij blast

Updated 41 min 3 sec ago

US believes Daesh likely responsible for Manbij blast

  • US government sources say the Pentagon and other national agencies are investigating the bombing
  • This is one of the deadliest attacks on US forces in Syria since their deployment in 2015

WASHINGTON: The US government believes the Daesh militant group is likely responsible for Wednesday’s attack in northern Syria that killed four Americans, although it has not reached a firm conclusion, two US government sources said on Thursday.
The sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Pentagon and other US agencies were investigating who carried out the attack in Manbij, Syria.
Officials studying the incident are not dismissing Daesh’s claim of responsibility for the blast, which killed two US troops and two civilians working for the US military, and regard it as plausible if not likely, one of the sources said.
The attack occurred nearly a month after President Donald Trump confounded his own national security team with a surprise decision on Dec. 19 to withdraw all 2,000 US troops from Syria, declaring Daesh had been defeated there.
The Manbij attack appeared to be the deadliest on US forces in Syria since they deployed on the ground there in 2015 and it took place in a town controlled by a militia allied to US-backed Kurdish forces.
If Daesh carried out the attack, that would undercut assertions, including by US Vice President Mike Pence several hours after the blast on Wednesday, that the militant group has been defeated.
Experts do not believe Daesh has been beaten despite its having lost almost all of the territory it held in 2014 and 2015 after seizing parts of Syria and Iraq and declaring a “caliphate.”
While the group’s footprint has shrunk, experts believe it is far from a spent force and can still conduct guerilla-style attacks. A Daesh statement on Wednesday said a Syrian suicide bomber had detonated his explosive vest in Manbij.
Trump’s Dec. 19 announcement was one of the reasons his former defense secretary, Jim Mattis, resigned. It stunned allies and raised fears of a long-threatened Turkish military offensive against US-backed Kurdish forces in northern Syria.
How and when US forces leave has deepened uncertainty in northern Syria, with Turkey and Syrian President Bashar Assad ready to fill the vacuum.
The US-backed YPG militia that is allied to the fighters holding Manbij last month invited Assad into the area around the town to forestall a potential Turkish assault. Syrian army troops entered the area soon after.
The YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces vowed on Thursday to ramp up attacks on Daesh remnants.