Turkey attempts to block money flow to PKK from Europe

24 April 2013 /ERCAN BAYSAL, ANKARA – Turkey is expanding its efforts in the fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorism with the latest agreement with Germany on limiting the monetary sources of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in that country.

Turkey recently signed agreements on suspending the accounts of PKK-related individuals with the US and Russia. Currently, it has reached agreement with Germany on tougher controls over the PKK’s money flow. Turkey hopes to minimize cash to the PKK coming from Europe with this agreement, as Germany is a crucial place since it is home to a large number of PKK supporters. A senior bureaucrat told Today’s Zaman that with the new agreement, inspection of financial accounts related to pro-PKK businessmen in Germany as well as financial intelligence sharing will be much easier.

Various associations are used as intermediary institutions in forwarding money to the PKK. Financial institutions treat Iran, Iraq and Syria as “risky” countries in terms of money transfers. According to data from the Finance Ministry and the Turkish National Police Department, $200 million unaccounted for have entered Turkey, northern Iraq and Europe that experts think are part of funds being forwarded to the PKK. Security forces in Turkey and the Financial Crimes Research Agency (MASAK) have concrete evidence confirming the suspicions. Experts also say that although there is now good control over bank transactions in the region, cash brought through customs gates still remains very difficult to detect.

A senior bureaucrat from the Finance Ministry says anti-money laundering and terror financing agreements with third countries are extremely important and helpful, but cash influx through borders is also not to be ignored. The bureaucrat said: “There are random checks. Say they declare TL 200,000 in cash, but bring in $1 million or even $2 million. Counts are rare and random. If the declaration is wrong, 10 percent of the money is seized at customs, but the rest can enter the country freely, and this means it can go into the hands of the terrorist organization from there on.” Turkey is not harsh on bringing huge amounts of cash into the country in order not to intimidate investors, sources say.

PKK money transfers

MASAK says the highest amounts of money donated to the PKK enter the country in Van, Hakkari, Mardin and Şırnak through couriers. There is also a significant amount that enters the country through the legitimate banking system sent by individuals from Europe to various individuals in these cities and cited as “donation,” “support” or just “gift.” The PKK tries to use bank accounts belonging to people who have no criminal records.

On March 13, 2001, Turkey’s MASAK and Germany’s financial intelligence units signed an agreement in Ankara. A senior analyst from Germany’s Financial Intelligence Department and the Turkey contact from the Federal Crime Bureau as well as MASAK bureaucrats attended the signing ceremony. The financial intelligence units of the two countries will be sharing financial intelligence regarding money laundering and the financing of terrorism. Turkey has similar agreements with the US, the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, Kosovo and Malaysia.