Arrest of 13 North Africans in Italy opens new lead to unearthing traffickers of Nigerians, others
The interception of a Libyan man who flew into Milan with nearly 356,500 dollars cash has led Italian Authorities to arrest 13 suspected money launderers believed to be in cahoots with human and drug traffickers. The arrest may open a new lead into the opaque and deadly cartel which specializes in trafficking African migrants including Nigerians across the Mediterranean to Italy for prostitution, slave labour and harvesting of human parts.
Lately, Libya has been in the news for selling migrants especially from Nigeria, Mali and Ghana to traffickers who scour Europe for human ‘goods’.
Six men from Egypt, four men and a woman from Syria, and two men from Morocco were placed behind bars on charges of money laundering, criminal association and processing payments illegally, Italy’s financial crimes police said in on Tuesday statement.
Another Syrian man was held in police detention for the same crimes.
The arrested were linked to the Libyan national intercepted at Malpensa airport in May 2015.
He was discovered to have made other trips with large amounts of cash to Germany, France, the Netherlands and Italy between 2013 and 2015.
Police found him in possession of pictures, videos and emails with radical Islam content, so he was initially suspected of terrorist financing, but investigations later established that his network was linked to traffickers rather than terrorists.
Italy’s Guardia di Finanza said the network, based in Milan but also present in Morocco, Egypt, Libya and Hungary, helped international criminals to transfer money via the traditional Muslim Hawala payment system.
Hawala payments have traditionally been used for migrants’ remittances, but Guardia di Finanza commander Paolo Kalenda said in a press conference that Italian criminals and tax dodgers have also joined the system.
Acting in concert with Hungarian counterparts, Italian authorities seized more than 1 million euros in cash from suspects, who are accused of having made almost 4 million euros in profits from money laundering.