Europol and German judicial and law enforcement authorities have taken action against an Iraqi organised crime group based in Germany suspected of performing trade-based money laundering (TBML) services for international heroin traffickers.

The operation was preceded by extensive and complex criminal investigations supported by Europol, which coordinated law enforcement authorities in France, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands.

Modus operandi

The criminals’ modus operandi involved the use of cash couriers travelling by car to pick up the cash proceeds from drug sales all over Europe, followed by the use of TBML techniques to forward the collected assets to the Middle East.

Expensive second-hand cars, heavy machinery and construction equipment were purchased in Germany and subsequently exported to Iraq, where the goods were ultimately resold in exchange for cash.

Little evidence

The organised crime group then made use of hawala or money transfer businesses to integrate and further transfer funds to the regular financial system.

This left virtually no paper trail evidence for law enforcement investigators.