Italian police have dismantled a network suspected of money laundering and financing jihadists in Syria.
Italian authorities arrested a total of 14 people, of which ten are suspected of money laundering and financing jihadists through the illegal distribution of money across European borders. They were arrested in Brescia, Italy following a search of some 20 properties in the northern city.
The other four detainees are suspected of being militants in a support cell for the al-Qaeda-affiliated extremist group al-Nusra Front. They were arrested on the island of Sardinia. Initially, al-Nusra Front was al-Qaeda’s official affiliate in Syria, but has since branched out to form links with other jihadist groups across the region.
What were the police investigating?
The operation involved a collaborative effort between anti-mafia and counter-terrorism police, who had been investigating an informal system of transferring money which is used to fund jihadist efforts. The process involves money being raised in Muslim communities across Europe, with Italian police concluding that funds had been raised in Italy, Sweden, Hungary and Turkey, largely by Syrian nationals.
Money is then moved around through an informal transfer system known as ‘hawala’, which avoids traditional banks and is therefore a more secure method for money laundering, the BBC reports. In this case, money was laundered through Austria, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands before reaching al-Nusra Front or affiliated groups in Syria.
What did the police find?
Italy’s taskforce searched 20 properties in Sardinia and Brescia and arrested fourteen people, 11 of whom were of Syrian origin and three of whom were from Morocco. Italian police have also confirmed that additional suspects, including the Italian wife of one of the detainees, are also under investigation for their alleged role in money laundering and financing jihadists.
Police discovered some transfers larger than €2m, and many that were in the hundreds of thousands of euros. With this operation, Italy hopes that cutting off a vital funding source from al-Nusra Front will deal a blow to the jihadist organisation’s operations in Syria.