21 November 2003

Hawala system under scrutiny

BBC NEWS | Business | Hawala system under scrutiny:

Kevin Anderson
BBC News in Washington

The US has intensified its war on terrorism on the financial front, targeting an ancient, informal system of money transfers that officials believe funnelled millions of dollars to Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.

The system is known as hawala, and it has been used for hundreds of years to move money across distances and around legal and financial barriers in South Asia and the Middle East. Billions of dollars flow through the informal hawala system

Arab traders used it on the Silk Road to avoid being robbed, and now millions of Pakistanis, Indians and others working abroad use the hawala system to send money home to their families. Billions of dollars flow through this informal and anonymous system, and officials believe that al-Qaeda is using the system to move money to its operatives around the world.

Difficult to trace

Typically, a transaction begins with a visit to a hawala broker. "

Also known as Informal Value Transfer Systems (IVTS), they are in high use on the Internet. Be on the look out for debit/credit cards being used by multiple individuals or stored value cards that won't leave a paper trail in some cases.

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