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Raids in 25 cities; 1 suspect accused of al-Nusra Front ties

Germany raids Islamic money-laundering network accused of sending cash to Syria

Report says hawala network suspected of transferring over $116 million in profits from drug trafficking and other illegal businesses; some of it may have funded militant groups

Illustrative: Police officers of Germany's Federal Police patrol a popular shopping street in Berlin, October 24, 2020. (STEFANIE LOOS / AFP)
Illustrative: Police officers of Germany's Federal Police patrol a popular shopping street in Berlin, October 24, 2020. (STEFANIE LOOS / AFP)

BERLIN — German police carried out large-scale raids in 25 cities Wednesday in connection with a suspected money-laundering network alleged to have funneled millions in ill-gotten gains abroad.

Duesseldorf police said the raids, which began in the early hours, involved more than 1,000 officers and took place in the states of North Rhine-Westphalia, Lower Saxony and Bremen.

Eleven people were arrested, including a 39-year-old Syrian man who is accused of membership in Syria’s Nusra Front extremist group, police said.

The raids are part of an investigation into a so-called hawala network widely used in Muslim countries, in which individuals rather than banks act as brokers for money transfers.

Duesseldorf police said the money laundered since 2016 came from a broad range of sources, including criminal activity such as armed robbery and extortion.

“According to initial estimates the volume of transactions in the period under investigation was about 140 million euros ($162 million),” police said in a statement.

German public broadcaster WDR reported that the laundered money included funds from drug trafficking and at least some of it was sent to Turkey and Syria, where it may have been used to fund militant groups.

Police said the suspects are also accused of illegally obtaining benefits. Officers seized valuables such as luxury cars, gold, jewels and high-end watches worth more than 2 million euros.

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