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Customs Service goes after terrorist funding

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In an effort to bankrupt terrorists, the Customs Service launched a multi-agency initiative Thursday aimed at their funding sources.

"Operation Green Quest" will target underground money transfers, called the "hawala" system in the Middle East and South Asia, said Robert Bonner, commissioner of the Customs Service.

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"This operation will also generate new information on sources of terrorist funding and systems, such as the 'hawala,' used to fund terrorism," Bonner told reporters Thursday.

"Hawala," a primitive method of transferring money from one source to another, especially between countries, is used to evade the legal banking system, Bonner said. Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda group use this system to channel money to their operatives, he added.

The initiative will bring together experts from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Secret Service, Treasury Dept., Customs Service, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and the Office of Foreign Assets Control.

The operation will target illicit charities, counterfeiting, credit card fraud, fraudulent export and import schemes, drug trafficking and cash smuggling, Bonner said.

"We are going to use the same kind of talent and expertise to go after Osama bin Laden and his finances that brought down Al Capone," said Kenneth Dam, deputy treasury secretary.



 
 
 
 


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