Italian Finance Police said on Monday they had arrested four men suspected of sending money to people across the Middle East and Europe who are said to have been collecting the money for the Islamic State (also known as IS or ISIS).
The four men are accused of wiring a total of 30,000 euros ($35,460) from a money transfer center in Andria in southeastern Italy to 42 collectors in a number of countries “to support the activity of anti-government fighting organizations in Syria and, specifically, aimed at financing jihadists belonging and affiliated to the self-proclaimed Islamic State,” according to the Italian Finance Police.
The complex investigation was launched by anti-Mafia prosecutors in Bari in 2017 after a report from the French judicial authority “summarized certain evidence of investigative interest concerning possible operations to finance international terrorism.
“The French judicial authority had, in fact, ascertained that two subjects residing in Andria, on Oct. 1, 2017, had completed two money transfers (both of the amount 950 euros [$1,122]), which took place just three minutes away [from] a Lebanese citizen considered a ‘collector’ of money available to the so-called foreign terrorist fighters,” the Italian Police said in a press release.
The four men are suspected of wiring the money transfer agency in Andria for militants “in several states at risk of terrorism, including Serbia, Turkey, Germany, United Arab Emirates, Albania, Russia, Hungary, Jordan and Thailand.”
Further investigation, which included phone wiretapping, documented further transfers from the same headquarters, considered to be the operational base for the criminal group.
The investigations reportedly turned up evidence of “an even more disturbing picture comprising over 1,000 money transfer operations carried out, through the money transfer circuit, in 49 countries (including abroad to abroad) in the period 2015–2020,” bringing the total amount received by the 42 collectors to more than 1 million euros ($1.2 million), Italian police said in their statement.
The payments made by the men arrested on July 3 are said to include 5,000 euros ($5,907) sent to two Russians, days before an attack on a church in southern Russia that killed five women, according to a statement by Luca Cioffi, a colonel in the Italian tax police, to local media.
The goal of ISIS is to create a caliphate, an Islamic state, across Iraq, Syria and onward. ISIS wants to establish a society that is ruled by Sharia Law, which began in the eighth century.
(Edited by Judith Isacoff and Fern Siegel)
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