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.

Jumblatt expresses concern over torture of Syrian refugees

Syrian children are pictured at a refugee camp in the village of Mhammara in the northern Lebanese Akkar region on March 9, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 19 March 2019

Jumblatt expresses concern over torture of Syrian refugees

  • UN official stresses ‘urgent need to ensure’ their ‘safe, voluntary and dignified return’
  • Some 215,000 Syrian students are currently enrolled in Lebanon's schools 

BEIRUT: Lebanese Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt has expressed concern about reports that Syrian refugees returning to their country from Lebanon face torture and murder.

This coincides with a debate in Lebanon about whether Syrian refugees should return without waiting for a political solution to the conflict in their country. 

UN Special Coordinator Jan Kubis stressed after meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Monday the “urgent need to ensure the safe, voluntary and dignified return of Syrian refugees home, according to international humanitarian norms.” 

Kubis added: “The UN and the humanitarian community will continue to facilitate these returns as much as possible. Another very important message was also to support the host communities here in Lebanon.”

Mireille Girard, representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), on Monday said: “The reconstruction process in Syria may not be enough to attract refugees to return. We are working to identify the reasons that will help them to return.”

She added: “The arrival of aid to the refugees is an element of trust that helps them to return. Their dignity and peaceful living must be ensured.”

Social Affairs Minister Richard Kouyoumdjian said the Lebanese General Security “issued lists containing the names of refugees wishing to return to their homes, but the Syrian regime accepted only about 20 percent of them.”

He added: “The solution is to call on the international community to put pressure on Russia, so that Moscow can exert pressure on (Syrian President) Bashar Assad’s regime to show goodwill and invite Syrian refugees to return to their land without conditions, procedures, obstacles and laws that steal property and land from them.”

Lebanese Education Minister Akram Chehayeb said: “The problem is not reconstruction and infrastructure, nor the economic and social situation. The main obstacle is the climate of fear and injustice in Syria.”

He added: “There are 215,000 Syrian students enrolled in public education in Lebanon, 60,000 in private education, and there are informal education programs for those who have not yet attended school to accommodate all children under the age of 18.” 

Chehayeb said: “As long as the displacement crisis continues, and as long as the (Assad) regime’s decision to prevent the (refugees’) return stands … work must continue to absorb the children of displaced Syrians who are outside education to protect Lebanon today and Syria in the future.”