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Norwegian police accuse hawala owner of laundering close to $50 million USD

Saturday July 10, 2021

STOPPED: The police followed the 48-year-old man since customs officers investigated him at Gardermoen in 2018. At that time, he had 110,000 euros in cash with him that he did not declare, according to the customs service. Three years later, he was arrested and charged with aggravated money laundering. Photo: Hans O. Torgersen, Aftenposten / POOL / NTB

Oslo (HOL) - A 48-year-old Somali-Norwegian was arrested and charged with laundering over NOK 422 million ($48,868,550 USD) through his money transfer (hawala) businesses in the Scandinavian capital.

Police in Norway suspect that from 2015 to 2018, the 48-year old suspect transported NOK 617 million ($71,449,989 USD) from Norway via cash or his bank account. They believe the vast majority of those transactions - NOK 422 million - were illegal.

Christian Eckhoff, the police attorney in the Eastern police district, said that the hawala business operated as a cover to launder the vast sums of money.

The suspect's lawyer, Morten Furuholmen, said that his client is innocent and that the hawala system is used to transfer money to send money that international banks do not service.

Police say that this is not their first interaction with the suspect. They began investigating the suspect after he was stopped in 2018 at Oslo's Gardermoen airport after failing to declare 110,000 euros that was eventually seized by authorities.

In September 2019, the suspect attempted to travel to Istanbul through the same airport but was stopped by customs officials. Despite declaring just over six million kroner in cash, customs officials found a total of  13.5 million kroner ($1,558,279) in cash and a purchase contract for a luxury Rolex watch.

The police believe that the suspect is part of a broader criminal operation in Norway and that the suspect's role is to launder drug profits.

Authorities say that the suspect's license to transfer money was suspended in 2017 for not adhering to money laundering regulations. He appealed the decision to a higher court, but the ruling was upheld.

The man has pled not guilty.


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