By Jemal Oumar
By Jemal Oumar
Nouakchott, December 30, 2011
By sharing intelligence information, Morocco, Algeria and Mauritania broke up a transnational scheme for illicit financial deals.
Moroccan, Algerian and Mauritanian security agencies together dismantled a major money laundering network involved in drug trafficking.
Information exchange between the three countries led to uncovering eleven companies suspected of serving as a façade for narcotics smugglers, As-Sabah reported on December 15th.
Algeria on December 7th sent three defendants to court on charges of using the enterprises to launder more than 100 billion centimes and 8 million euros in hard currency, according the Moroccan newspaper. A search is still under way for a fourth party in the same case.
Among the involved companies is an exportation and importation enterprise in Ghardaia, Algeria. Investigations and auditing of its accounts revealed trade relations with companies in Morocco and Mauritania. Another company sent SUVs to drug traffickers in Hassi Messaoud and In Amenas, though it specialised in gear rentals, according to Algeria’s El Khabar.
Companies involved in money laundering “often work in businesses that are far removed from the sources of their funding”, according to financial analyst and accountant Mohamed Ould Mubarak.
“There is no doubt that there are several companies operating in various fields in Mauritania, which were established by capital obtained from the revenues of selling drugs,” he said. “This is what is known as money laundering. This is also similar to those who establish a company with a capital obtained through ransoms received in exchange for releasing Western hostages.”
Such enterprises have “a negative effect on the economies of Maghreb states”, he said. “Their owners usually avoid paying taxes, for fear of being detected. Besides, goods, capitals and imports are not registered at customs departments, which lead to flooding the market with goods and declining prices. This is reflected in the price of currencies with low value, and leads to inflation.”
Mohameden Ould Akkaha, an economic affairs journalist and director of Mauritania’s Hasad website, told Magharebia, “Drug trafficking is carried out through the Algerian-Mauritanian borders and the Moroccan-Mauritania borders through infiltration. There is also active co-operation among gangs engaged in smuggling and money laundering in those countries. Shipments of drugs are often confiscated in cars and boats crossing the borders of these countries.”
“In recent years, when cocaine was being infiltrated into Mauritania, before the strong campaign conducted by the government in that area, there were several companies in Mauritania that operated ostensibly in the exporting of fish,” Ould Akkaha explained.
However, financial analyst Yacoub Mustafa insisted that the government was not doing enough.
“The Mauritanian efforts in the fight against laundering money from the proceeds from selling drugs and banned substances are still limited and ineffective, making it part of the money laundering chain at the Maghreb and African levels,” he said.
“Although Mauritania is beginning to realise the risks of such activities on the economy and has already started training magistrates, control clerks and bank data analysts, this required further training among traders and workers in the field of money exchange, as well as co-ordination with neighbouring countries,” Mustafa added.