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THE CASE OF THE CRIMINAL LAUNDRY
Money Launderers Who Support Terrorists Taken to the Cleaners

06/29/04

Graphic of Counterterrorism seal and World GlobeQuick quiz. Guess which city is the hub of a recent major international money-laundering and terrorism investigation?

A) New York, N.Y.
B) Beirut, Lebanon
C) Montreal, Canada
D) London, England
E) Little Rock, Arkansas

If you went with the unlikely choice – Little Rock– you were right...though the investigation ultimately touched on all of the above cities -- and more.

"Operation Pop Concert" was a hugely complicated case that began, innocently enough, with a tip: in August 2001, an Arkansas resident told our Arkansas agents that a man in Saudi Arabia was looking for American clients to launder large amounts of money for him.

We opened an investigation and found ourselves dealing with a man who just wanted to make a dishonest living: he didn't care what illegal schemes he helped, he just wanted to set up a money-laundering network that would produce his cut of the profits.

So we gave him a hand: we introduced him to some of our very own undercover "American clients." And in no time at all, the scheme involved a Lebanese bank; Israeli, Lebanese, Canadian, U.S., and Saudi citizens; illegal drugs; companies in Montreal and California, night-vision goggles, infrared aiming devices, and, finally, the prospect of some very scary end users, Hezbollah agents in Athens, Greece.

Happy ending, thanks to international cooperation. Last month, five men were indicted in a massive, international money-laundering scheme in Arkansas and on 6/16, one of the five plus another man were charged in New York in a scheme to export military night-vision equipment to the terrorist group Hezbollah. Who made the case? Our law enforcement partners across the country and around the world: England's New Scotland Yard, France's Police Judiciare, Canada's Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the U.S. Commerce and Defense departments, FBI Arkansas, New York, Los Angeles, and Detroit field offices, and FBI legal attaches in London and Paris. A group effort that is getting more and more efficient the more we partner together.

The moral of the story. Actually, there are two.
1. Criminals are happy to help terrorist schemes if it means a dishonest buck for them.
2. Terrorist plans can be forged anytime, anywhere, on any street and in any rural town.

In Little Rock Special Agent in Charge William Temple's words: "From Albany to Anchorage, from Paris to Beijing -- and everywhere in between -- fighting terrorism is the number one priority for every one of the FBI's field offices and legal attaches. With the cooperation of our national and international law enforcement partners, we will investigate potential terrorists, and their abettors, wherever they surface."

Links: Arkansas Press Release | New York Press Release