Italian police discover money transfers totaling €1m to fund terror

Special Italian police discover money transfers totaling €1m to fund terror
Piazza Catuma, Andria, Puglia, Italy, from where transfers of money were made to finance terrorism. (Wikimedia Commons)
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Updated 05 July 2021

Italian police discover money transfers totaling €1m to fund terror

Italian police discover money transfers totaling €1m to fund terror
  • Money was sent over course of five years from office in Puglia to collectors based across the world
  • Four people have so far been arrested on charges of financing terror

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.


Myanmar says seized drugs worth half a billion dollars torched

Myanmar says seized drugs worth half a billion dollars torched
Updated 26 June 2022

Myanmar says seized drugs worth half a billion dollars torched

Myanmar says seized drugs worth half a billion dollars torched
  • Almost two tons of heroin and more than 630 million meth pills go up

YANGON: Myanmar authorities said they torched more than half a billion dollars worth of narcotics on Sunday as part of eradication efforts for World Drug Day, as the UN warns that production of methamphetamine in the region is hitting record levels.
Almost two tons of heroin and more than 630 million “yaba” meth pills went up in smoke at ceremonies in Myanmar’s commercial hub of Yangon, the central city of Mandalay and Shan state in the north, authorities said.
But some analysts cautioned that the $642 million bonfires are part of a long-running game of smoke and mirrors played by a junta government not serious about tackling the problem.
The televised burnings represent a “decade-long delusion” about Myanmar’s multibillion-dollar drug industry, independent analyst David Mathieson said.
“The military pretends to get serious about drug eradication and the West pretends to believe them,” he said.
There was “active military complicity in protecting large-scale drug production to ensure stability in conflict zones,” Mathieson added.
This includes Shan state — Southeast Asia’s primary source of meth according to the United Nations.
The state is home to militias and has seen relatively little violence in opposition to the military since Myanmar’s generals seized power in a coup last year.
At the ceremony in Yangon, bundles of meth wrapped in innocuous-looking Chinese tea packaging sat alongside bricks of cannabis as well as bags of ketamine and MDMA.
A series of small explosions sent the contraband up in flames before thick plumes of black smoke billowed into the sky.
Firefighters moved in for safety and police officers took selfies against the backdrop of the blaze while Burmese pop music blared through speakers.
Last month the UN said law enforcement across Southeast and East Asia netted nearly 172 tons of meth in 2021 — about seven times more than a decade ago.
The surge in supply has sent street prices in Thailand and Malaysia crashing to all-time lows.
From Shan state the drugs are increasingly shipped to Laos, then Thailand before reaching Malaysia, where they are trafficked onwards to countries throughout the Asia-Pacific, the UN report said.


Pope Francis urges calm in protest-hit Ecuador

Pope Francis urges calm in protest-hit Ecuador
Updated 26 June 2022

Pope Francis urges calm in protest-hit Ecuador

Pope Francis urges calm in protest-hit Ecuador
  • ‘I encourage all parties to abandon violence and extreme positions’

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis on Sunday called on all sides to refrain from violence in Ecuador, which has been rocked by nationwide protests against rising fuel and living costs.
“I am following with concern what is happening in Ecuador,” the Argentine pontiff said after his weekly Sunday Angelus prayer at the Vatican.
“I encourage all parties to abandon violence and extreme positions. Let us learn — only through dialogue can social peace be found, I hope soon.”
The 85-year-old urged particular attention to be paid to “the marginalized populations and the poorest, but always respecting the rights of all, and the institutions of the country.”
Ecuador’s National Assembly is due to vote on whether to oust President Guillermo Lasso over the protests that have left five people dead and dozens injured in 13 days of revolt.
Pope Francis also highlighted the death of sister Luisa Dell’Orto, an Italian missionary who he said was killed on Saturday in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince.
“Sister Lucia (Luisa) lived there for 20 years, dedicated above all to the service of street children,” he said.
“I entrust her soul to God and pray for the Haitian people, especially for the youngest, so they may have a more peaceful future without misery, and without violence.
“Sister Lucia made her life a gift for others, to the point of martyrdom.”


Shanghai will gradually resume dining-in at restaurants from June 29

Shanghai will gradually resume dining-in at restaurants from June 29
Updated 26 June 2022

Shanghai will gradually resume dining-in at restaurants from June 29

Shanghai will gradually resume dining-in at restaurants from June 29
  • The Chinese economic hub lifted a two month city-wide lockdown on June 1

BEIJING: Shanghai will gradually resume dining-in at restaurants from June 29 in low-risk areas and areas without any community-level spread of COVID-19 during the previous week, a Shanghai government official said on Sunday.
The Chinese economic hub lifted a two month city-wide lockdown on June 1, but many establishments have remained unable to offer indoor dining since mid-March.
Shanghai reported no new locally transmitted cases — either symptomatic or asymptomatic — for June 24 and June 25.


Biden says G7, NATO must ‘stay together’ against Russia’s war

Biden says G7, NATO must ‘stay together’ against Russia’s war
Updated 26 June 2022

Biden says G7, NATO must ‘stay together’ against Russia’s war

Biden says G7, NATO must ‘stay together’ against Russia’s war
  • US President Joe Biden praises Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz for his leadership in the wake of Russia’s war against Ukraine

ELMAU CASTLE, Germany: US President Joe Biden on Sunday praised Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz for his leadership in the wake of Russia’s war against Ukraine and urged the West to stay united.
“We have to stay together,” Biden told Scholz at a meeting ahead of the G7 summit in the German Alps.
Russian President Vladimir Putin had been hoping “that somehow NATO and the G7 would splinter,” Biden said. “But we haven’t and we’re not going to.”
Biden met his German host in the picturesque Elmau Castle where the G7 — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States — was holding a three-day summit dominated by the crisis in Ukraine.
Biden praised Scholz’s leadership as current chair of the G7 at a time of upheaval in Europe triggered by Russia’s war and subsequent global economic fallout.
“I want to compliment you for stepping up as you did when you became chancellor” and “the way you had a great impact on the rest of Europe to move, particularly relating to Ukraine,” Biden told Scholz.
The 79-year-old Democrat also fondly recalled his skiing days, telling Scholz that the Alpine setting was “beautiful.”
A senior US official said Washington has been “investing very heavily” in the relationship with Germany since Biden took office almost two and a half years ago.
Their talks Sunday were “a good opportunity to affirm the deep and enduring ties between our two countries. In terms of the meeting agenda, expect that Russia and Ukraine are going to be at the top of the list, including our continued close coordination on the political and diplomatic front,” the official said.


South Africa makeshift nightclub death toll climbs to 20: Safety official

South Africa makeshift nightclub death toll climbs to 20: Safety official
Updated 26 June 2022

South Africa makeshift nightclub death toll climbs to 20: Safety official

South Africa makeshift nightclub death toll climbs to 20: Safety official
  • Victims were aged between 18 and 20 years

JOHANNESBURG: The number of young people who have died at a makeshift nightclub in a township in South Africa's southern city of East London has risen to 20, a senior safety official said Sunday.

“The number has increased to 20, three have died in hospital. But there are still two who are very critical,” head of the provincial government safety department Weziwe Tikana-Gxothiwe said on local TV.

The victims were aged between 18 and 20 years.

Unverified pictures shared on social media showed bodies with no visible signs of injuries, strewn on the floor of the club.

Local television showed police officers trying to calm down a crowd of people gathered outside the club in the city, which lies on the Indian Ocean coast, nearly 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) south of Johannesburg.