ROME: Italian police have discovered that more than €1 million ($1.2 million) were sent over the course of five years from a money transfer office in Puglia, in southern Italy, to 42 foreign collectors based in different countries. Investigators believe that the sum was destined to finance terrorism.
The investigation by Italy’s financial police has been called “The Lebanese” because of the nationality of the man who sent money from Andria to Islamist terror contacts. His identity has not yet been revealed.
The entire sum was divided into transfers worth less than 1,000 euros each in an attempt to avoid rousing the suspicion of financial authorities.
A report was sent to the public prosecutor’s office in Bari by the French judicial authority and Eurojust, an agency based in The Hague that is in charge of investigating and prosecuting transnational crime. Four people were arrested on charges of financing terrorism.
The Italian investigation started on Jan. 10, 2017. The financial police investigated two transfers worth 950 euros each made in three minutes from a money transfer agency in Andria to the Lebanese citizen.
In a press conference attended by Arab News, Col. Luca Cioffi of the financial police said that the man collects money for “foreign terrorist fighters.”
Subsequent investigations have documented further transfers of money from the same money transfer agency based in the north of Bari, the capital city of Puglia, to recipients in Serbia, Turkey, Germany, the United Arab Emirates, Albania, Russia, Hungary, Jordan and Thailand.
The suspect transactions had almost all the same artfully divided amounts, beneficiaries, dates and money transfer agencies.
Cioffi explained that the organization tried “to circumvent the anti-money laundering legislation” and thus avoid that the suspicious transactions be reported to the Financial Intelligence Unit of the Bank of Italy.
He said that a few days before the terrorist attack in Dagestan, Russia, on Feb. 18, 2018, in which five women were killed by a man wielding a machine gun while praying in an Orthodox church, transfers of money for a total of 4,800 euros were sent from Andria to two residents in that same area in Russia.
“This is further evidence of the presence in Puglia of subjects linked to international terrorism. We must keep identifying and isolating those criminals who, with the proceeds of their activities in our cities, finance death in other parts of the world,” Forza Italia Sen. Dario Damiani told Arab News.