North Africa: Maghreb States Dismantle Money Laundering Cell

By Dialogo
July 01, 2012

Moroccan, Algerian and Mauritanian security agencies worked together to
dismantle a major money-laundering network involved in drug trafficking. Eleven
companies were suspected of serving as a cover for narcotics smugglers, the
newspaper As-Sabah reported in December 2011.
Algeria sent three defendants to court on charges of using the enterprises to
launder more than 100 billion centimes (U.S. $1 billion) and 8 million euros (U.S.
$10.2 million) in hard currency, according to the Moroccan newspaper.
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 sport
utility vehicles to drug traffickers in two Algerian cities, although the company
specialized in gear rentals, according to the Algerian newspaper El Khabar.
Companies involved in money laundering “often work in businesses that are far
removed from the sources of their funding,” said financial analyst 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.” 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, capital and imports are not registered at customs departments, which leads 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-Mauritanian borders
through infiltration. There is also active cooperation 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.”