Customs agents in Seattle have been observing Somalian migrants leaving the US for their home countries with suitcases stuffed full of cash.
Its not illegal to do this, and the money has only been noted as it has been reported on the relevant forms. The couriers were working for Seattle-area hawalas – businesses that derive their name from the Arabic word for “transfer.” Hawalas are part of a traditional system of informal banking in Muslim communities.
“The thing was the amount, the staggering amount,” said Glenn Kerns, who was assigned to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) at the time.
Kerns said the first cash shipment rolled through Sea-Tac early last year. A man carrying $750,000 in cash told Customs officials he was transporting the money overseas. Over the next several months, couriers carrying as much as $2 million boarded commercial flights at Sea-Tac.
“One hawala – Seattle hawala – sent out $20 million last year,” said Kerns.
He researched the names of the ten clients who transferred the most money through hawalas last year.
“All ten of them were on welfare benefits. DSHS benefits,” said Kerns. “It’s fraud. Straight up fraud – every one of them.”
But it goes on, and it seems that nothing can stop it. Full story.