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US targets informal banks for alleged aid to Taliban

June 30, 2012 03:13 IST
To attack the financial underpinnings of Taliban militants, the United States on Friday slapped sanctions against a pair of informal money-exchange networks in Afghanistan and Pakistan for alleged terrorist financing.

The Department of Treasury slapped sanctions against two exchange houses -- Haji Khairullah Haji Sattar Money Exchange (HKHS) and Roshan Money Exchange (RMX) -- which principally operate in Afghanistan and Pakistan, for storing or moving money for the Taliban.

It also designated the co-owners of HKHS, Haji Abdul Sattar Barakzai and Haji Khairullah Barakzai, for donating money and providing financial services to the Taliban.

Both HKHS and RMX operate as hawalas and have been used by the Taliban to facilitate money transfers in support of the Taliban's narcotics trade and terrorist operations.

United Nations also added Haji Abdul Sattar Barakzai, Haji Khairullah Barakzai, HKHS and RMX to its 1988 list of individuals, groups, undertakings and entities associated with the Taliban in constituting a threat to the peace, stability and security of Afghanistan.

"Today's action, which coincides with action by the UN, is aimed at disabling two key financial hubs supporting the Taliban.

"Whether financial support to the Taliban moves through banks or less formal mechanisms, like the hawalas we are designating in this action, we will continue to work alongside our partners to expose and disrupt this illicit financial activity," said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S Cohen.

As a result of today's action, all property in the US or in the possession or control of US persons in which HKHS, RMX, Haji Abdul Sattar Barakzai (Sattar), or Haji Khairullah Barakzai (Khairullah) have an interest is blocked, and US persons are prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.

The Treasury said Sattar is a co-owner and operator of HKHS.

Sattar and Khairullah have co-owned and jointly operated hawalas known as HKHS throughout Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Dubai and managed an HKHS branch in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region.

As of late 2009, Sattar and Khairullah had an equal partnership in HKHS.

Sattar founded HKHS and customers chose to use HKHS in part because of Sattar's and Khairullah's well-known names.

"Sattar has donated thousands of dollars to the Taliban to support Taliban activities in Afghanistan and has distributed funds to the Taliban using his hawala. As of 2010, Sattar provided financial assistance to the Taliban," it said.

"As of late 2009, Sattar provided tens of thousands of dollars to aid the Taliban's fight against Coalition Forces in Marjah, Nad'Ali District, Helmand Province, Afghanistan, and helped to transport a Taliban member to Marjah.

"As of 2008, Sattar and Khairullah collected money from businessmen and distributed the funds to the Taliban using their hawala," it alleged.

As of 2010, Khairullah was a hawaladar, or hawala operator, for Taliban senior leadership and provided financial assistance to the Taliban.

As of 2011, HKHS was a preferred method for Taliban leadership to transfer money to Taliban commanders in Afghanistan.

In late 2011, the HKHS branch in Lashkar Gah, Helmand Province, Afghanistan was used to send money to the Taliban shadow governor for Helmand Province.

In mid-2011, a Taliban commander used an HKHS branch in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region to fund fighters and operations in Afghanistan.

After the Taliban deposited a significant amount of cash monthly with this HKHS branch, Taliban commanders could access the funds from any HKHS branch.

Taliban personnel used HKHS in 2010 to transfer money to hawalas in Afghanistan, where operational commanders could access the funds.

As of late 2009, the manager of the HKHS branch in Lashkar Gah oversaw the movement of Taliban funds through HKHS.

According to the US Treasury, as of 2011, RMX was one of the primary hawalas used by Taliban officials in Helmand Province.

In 2011, a senior Taliban member withdrew hundreds of thousands of dollars from an RMX branch in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region to distribute to Taliban shadow provincial governors.

To fund the Taliban's spring offensive in 2011, the Taliban shadow governor of Helmand Province sent hundreds of thousands of dollars to RMX.

Also in 2011, a Taliban member received tens of thousands of dollars from RMX to support military operations.

An RMX branch in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region also held tens of thousands of dollars to be collected by a Taliban commander.

In 2010, on behalf of the Taliban shadow governor of Helmand Province, a Taliban member used RMX to send thousands of dollars to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, it said.

"The Taliban also uses RMX to facilitate its role in the Afghan narcotics trade," the US Treasury alleged.

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