The following text was translated from a Dutch news source, the Rotterdam NRC Handelsblad on 16 June 2004:
The De Kinker video store of the 39-year-old Riaz D. from Pakistan was “the center of an international illegal laundering organization.” That was announced by the police last August after over 850,000 euros had been seized in various searches.
The police file on D. and his collaborators is called “Mansoor,” from the Arabic for victorious. In the police file, to which this newspaper has had access, judicial investigators describe the Amsterdam Pakistanis’ money dealing transactions as “hawala banking.” Hawala — Arabic for transfer, transformation — is one of the names for the so-called underground banking.
Under this system, person X comes into a phone center, a foreign exchange office, or a video store with a request to make the sum of money which he brings with him available to person Y in an office in another country.
This form of banking is based on mutual trust, and usually takes place within family networks or networks put together along ethnic lines. In D.’s case, Pakistanis from Karachi were the lynchpin in the exchange transactions. Because in hawala transactions the authorities in both countries obtain no financial evidence, hawala is also popular among terrorists. Thus the hijackers who attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in the United States 11 September 2001 financed their plans through this informal banking system.
The Mansoor file states that in September 2002, Riaz D. received 25,000 euros from Ahmed Ruksar; a Pakistani who was arrested in Spain in March 2003 in connection with the funding of an attack on a synagogue in Tunisia. Some 19 people were killed in that suicide operation in April 2002, responsibility for which was claimed by al-Qa’ida.
Various flows of money have come to light from an investigation by the Amsterdam police. This it emerges that in July 2002 D. received from Dubai and Qatar 120,000 euros altogether in his savings account. In addition to the video store, he also ran the Golden Sea Hotel in Dubai, and drove a Mercedes worth 43,000 euros. Riaz “has large sums from an unknown source,” the Mansoor file states.
In the file, a fellow suspect talks about the funneling off of “large sums from the drugs world.” On each transaction, around 8 percent was allegedly earned by the hawala bankers. According to Riaz D., people came into his video store only in order to hire videos. However, according to the public prosecutor’s department, D.’s lawful earnings, such as from his video store, are “nil.” The lawful incomes of Riaz’ relatives who are standing trial could also be better. Brother Sajjad, who was arrested in London with 470,000 guilders in 1997, has a welfare payment of 960 euros. Brother Adil receives 994 euros from social security.
Riaz says that he won the 140,000 euros which the police found in De Kinker at roulette in the Holland Casino. The file states that D. “frequently launders money through the Holland Casino.” Thus this casino credited “winnings” of 30,000 and 40,000 euros to his giro account 12 and 13 October 2000, respectively, and 70,000 and 50,000 euros 3 and 4 February in 2001.
The investigation into D.’s “laundering” began in February 2003. Listening in on him and his relatives put the police on the trail of various suspects. Every new customer of the De Kinker video store led the police to a new case. Thus a customer from the “Patrick file” brought the police to two “growshop” proprietors in Rotterdam. Some 240 kilos of drugs and 150,000 euros were found on them.
Another customer — “Camillo” — led via the “Adagio file” to the discovery of 12 kilos of cocaine, two firearms with silencers, and 750 British £20 bills. At another address in this sub-investigation, money from England, Scotland, Australia, India, Cuba, and the Netherlands was found. And the customer under the file name “Diemen” led to the discovery of 150,000 euros and a so-called paralyzer, 90 cartons of 30 Temazepam each, and a Python.357 revolver.
In view of the hawala bank’s clientele, it is not strange that these exchange transactions entail certain risks. Thus Riaz D. was robbed in front of his home under threat of firearms, the video store was raided by armed men, and Riaz was shot and robbed in front of the ready-made clothes center in Amsterdam. He survived the attack and was arrested last August.
According to the public prosecutor, Riaz and his people committed laundering, handling stolen goods, participation in a criminal organization, and infringement of the copyright law. Illegal DVD’s and videos were found in the video store.
Riaz’ lawyer — M. van Gessel — argued today that the public prosecutor’s department was much too vague in its charges. “Of what actual actions actually is my client being accused?” According to him, what his client had done wrong had not been described specifically enough. He asked for several counts on the summons to be nullified.