German authorities conducted a joint investigation into a criminal organization involved in ML and violation of the country’s Payment Services Supervision Act. Düsseldorf Police, the Central and Contact Point for the Prosecution of Organized Crimes in North Rhine-Westphalia (ZeOS NRW), and the Tax Investigation and Customs authorities of Düsseldorf are among the authorities involved in this investigation. The authorities searched as many as 85 houses, apartments, offices and business premises in several cities including Dortmund, Düsseldorf, Essen, and Hanover. They also arrested eleven people, seized 10 properties and froze 14 accounts. Cash and luxury goods worth over 4.5 million euros ($5.21m) were also seized.
This major bust came after months of investigations by the authorities. Frequent findings of cash by police and customs officials and suspicious activity reports by financial institutions indicated the operation of an international hawala network. The current investigation targets 67 suspects who are known to be a part of this hawala network.
The two main accused who are suspected of operating the hawala network performed illegal money transfers of over 140 million euros ($162m) from Germany and the Netherlands to Syria and Turkey. To collect their fees and settle disputes, the members of the hawala network indulged in assaults and death threats. Thus, legal proceedings against the accused will also include charges of robbery, hostage-taking, dangerous bodily harm and coercion. Many of the accused also fraudulently received social benefits.