Sunday, June 26, 2016

Tom Creal accuses Kuveyt Turk Bank for helping to raise money for ISIS and Al Nusra

Thomas Creal is one of first names comes to mind when talk about “money trailing experts”. He is trailing lost and black money. For the last 18 months, along with a team of 8 people, he has been monitoring money traffic in Turkey which he sees helping, abetting bloody war crimes and illegal trade. He disclosed heavy accusations against Kuveyt Turk Participation Bank (KTPB) when filed a complaint in California on June 13th.

A California nonprofit wants two Middle Eastern banks (Kuveyt Turk and Kuwait Finance House)  and a Kuwaiti sheikh (Hajjaj al-Ajmi) to pay damages for claims they funded the Islamic State's systematic murder and displacement of Christians in Iraq and Syria via this complaint.

Kuveyt Turk’s Vice President also sitting at number one seat in Turkey was Abdullah Tivnikli, between 2001 and 2015. Tivnikli is known with his close ties to President Erdogan. Very close ties. Tivnikli resigned from the bank in the fall of 2015. Dr. Adnan Ertem replaced him in 2015 as number one officer in Turkey. As Creal says some of bank accounts allegedly collecting money for jihadi groups are still active, that puts Dr. Ertem along with Mr. Tivnikli under the spotlights.

Last year, one of the largest financial institutions in the Middle East, Aman-Jordan based Arab Bank, settled a lawsuit brought by 300 families who accused the bank of funding Hamas-sponsored suicide attacks in Israel from 2001 to 2004.

According to the complaint, a man named Hajjaj al-Ajmi, who is accused of transferring money to ISIS, as well as al-Nusra Front (al-Qaeda), was constantly traveling between Syria and Kuwait via Turkey, and raised money via bank accounts at Kuveyt Turk Participation Bank, mostly on social media. The complaint  includes the claim that al-Ajmi asked for money on behalf of a foundation based in Turkey over Twitter, giving Kuveyt Türk account numbers. The complaint also accuses Kuveyt Turk and others for abetting and aiding war crimes and genocide. Thomas Creal, who is architect of the complaint and money trailing behind it, thinks “the Hague (International Criminal Court) is a real possibility, if it is proven certain officials had a role.”

Full complaint and summons for three suspects can be found here:

Below my interview with Tom Creal was conducted last week. I edited and omitted some parts to make it shorter and to the point:

Do you think Kuveyt Turk officials have any link with the organizations (ISIS, Al Nusra) or people who collected money that were mentioned in your court petition?
It’s actually kind of hard to believe there isn’t connection. It’s hard to believe that the bank’s management would not know what’s going in their banks. If they dont know it then there is an issue of “negligence”. They should know. You cant have it both ways. Everybody is focusing how ISIS is funding, moving the money. So it kinda raises attention for everyone, including banks. This should put these guys on high alert.

You note in your petition: ‘’54. At all times, KTPB/KFH knew that its receipt, transfer, and disbursement of funds were being paid to ISIS murderous attacks against Assyrian Christians and other civilians.’’ So you say they knew what they were doing..
I let the evidence speak for itself. I think there are enough written materials out there with regards to UN and US sanctions that talk about blacklisted individual and how he moved the money. If he used the account in this bank, then.. To me this is a nice connection.  

I always thought this was a beginning. This case will be used by me, by my team and others as a model going forward. Whenever the trail of that money will take us. I think this case as a preceding case that’s gonna have ripple effects for a long time.

If Erdogan’s government was not actively managing about these operation, do you think they may be responsible by taking passive-acceptance position.
You cannot just ignore such developments. It’s recklessness. Looking the other way is an issue of “negligence”. If you see or hear something you have to act. It’s like Panama Papers. It’s driving the world into more transparent manner. It’s the same thing: we want transparency in terrorism funding.

Third suspect in your petition is Hajjaj al-Ajmi who was arrested in 2014. What happened to his bank account after he got arrested?
That account continued to receive money and there were other accounts opened as well. It was confirmed that he continued to rise money even after he got arrested.

How did he continued raising money after he got arrested?
I wish I knew the answer. I dont have that answer. I dont know his current status, is he still in jail, is he back to the streets? But he has been confirmed to raising money thru social media.

So you are saying even after it was announced publicly that he was blacklisted by US Treasury, money was still withdrawn from his account and the bank did not touch his account?
Yes. That’s what we found out.

Dont you think this may mean bank’s tolerance for support for terrorism?
I leave that to attorneys’ to state that but in my world it sure it is.

How long these accounts, who are suspected collecting funds for these terrorist groups, stayed active?
Number one, I think it’s still current. I think they are still doing it now. Somebody told me there is a Facebook posting raising money with just a different type of wording. I think it’s the most important that it’s still current going on. I dont know how far back it has gone.

Kuveyt Turk and KFH issued statements and denied these allegations..
I expected that. Everybody does that in initial round. But I think they need to think hard and long their recklessness, not having proper check in place, consequences of their inaction… I think it will change over time. Hopefully sooner rather than later for the benefit of refugees and victims.

What is the next step here?
There is a process, so they have to respond. Then the ‘’discovery’’ step beings. Hopefully it will happen quickly so the victims would benefit.

How about if they want to ignore. How can you force them?
They cannot avoid this. This is US venue. And they wont. They will answer and they will talk.

You led the UN investigation that take Liberya’s fmr president Charles Taylor to the Hague. Did that experience help at this time?
One thing always pops out is that they think nobody will catch them, nobody watches them. They will always get away with it. It’s a human nature. Experience helped a great deal. I followed traced former president Charles Taylor’s assets around world. Tracing money is a true form of art. When peel layers, just like what they do in (New York South District) like Bharara’s Zarrab case. Certain things will come out and we connect the dots. True skill to have. I compliment to all my team on this. We are 8 people, working about a year and half on this.

What kind of result of compensation are you expecting from this case?
Various calculations take us somewhere above 2 billion dollars.

How was US Administration’s various agencies reaction to your file?
There was a lot of interests because it involves banks. They are very interested because they are real banks. So, if it is so, let this to be a template. Keep peeling the onion skins and see what’s out there.

What kind of damages, compensation you are expecting from Kuveyt Turk?
I have lots of experince at courts, I testified. There are couple of ways of estimations and both of them bring us above $2 billions.

Abdullah Tivnikli was the number one person at Kuveyt Turk’s operations who has well connected with Pres Erdogan and other high level officials. Are you surprised by this?
First of all this doesnt surprise me. We will continue to do what we are doing. This may take us to different directions. He (Tivnikli) provably will be on our radar screen very soon. We ll start tracing those funds. And truth usually comes out. Money flow always tell you the truth.

Would the person who is number one at bank’s operations may be held responsible if the bank found guilty?
Somebody has to be responsible. Buck does stop somewhere. We are very different time right now. ISIS out there raising billions of money. Every bank should be on high alert.

What would the chance for those who found responsible going to the Hague for a trial?
The Hague is a real possibility, if it is proven certain officials had a role. Remember, Charles Taylor, former President of Liberia was convicted for Crimes Against Humanity because he financed the war, not because he pulled the trigger.

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