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tv   Following the Drug Money -...  BBC News  November 1, 2019 3:30am-4:01am GMT

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from a global outbreak of african swine fever. it says the result could be food shortages and higherfood prices. the disease has already devastated the pork industry in china. now on bbc news, panorama. tonight on panorama, we are on the trail of an organised crime gang that laundered british drug cash around the world. bbc panorama. will you answer some questions? no. we have asked you... no! we reveal how the financial system failed to stop some dirty money. if money—laundering continues, the driver of organised crime continues. we expose the big city firm that covered up evidence of crime. instead of reporting the crimes that i told them about... my bosses just covered them up. and we meet the whistle—blowers whose lives were destroyed after speaking out.
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it has caused myself and my family untold suffering. and nobody seems to care. violent crime is on the rise on britain's streets. much of it is linked to drugs. robberies, shootings, stabbings. there is a clear causal link between that street violence and organised drug trafficking and criminality. people deal drugs to make money. money and drug dealing drive violence on our streets and often, that leads to murder.
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criminals make around £5 billion a year by selling drugs. it's nearly all cash. and that'is a problem because they can't put millions in cash into the bank. that is where the money launderers come in. money—laundering is the air that allows organised crime to breathe. criminals don't do this for fun. they do it to create money, and the only way they can enjoy that money through the process of money—laundering. the financial system is supposed to keep dirty money out. tonight, we expose how it fails. we have got hold of details of a police investigation which put 27 money launderers behind bars.
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working with the french media company, premieres lignes, we have tracked the gangs dirty money around the world. the money trail starts with an airport cleaner, hassan, and a trip from france to london. it's 2013. hassan been paid £500 to make a collection on the isle of dogs. £70,000 of british drug money. what he doesn't know is he is being watched by the french police. hassan and another money mule make six trips to london. they collect more than £1 million of drug cash and smuggle it to france.
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by using a mule, you are placing another barrier between you and the originator of the funds and the actual proceeds. they provide an essential service to the money—laundering network. the more times you move that money across the border, the more difficult it is to trace it and track it. the money from selling drugs was collected in the uk, france, all over europe, and brought here to paris to be sorted, counted and passed on. the gang's every move was being monitored. french police listened in to 100,000 phone calls. translation: of course, drug trafficking is rarely done by check or credit card. cash is circulating and somebody has to retrieve it and repatriate those funds. we identified four groups
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of collectors in france. they were collecting money everywhere in europe. we have documents that show that about 250 million euros passed through their hands. the gang recruited people with ordinaryjobs so they could move the cash without attracting attention. they hired an ambulance driver to meet the money mules who had collected cash around europe. he agreed to be interviewed anonymously. you see ambulances everywhere. nobody is surprised to see an ambulance. there are hundreds of ambulances that pass by every day. by day, he drove sick patients around paris. by night, he drove the same streets, collecting bags of drug cash.
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i was in an ambulance, collection, high packet, and then i took the money. it could be anywhere between 150 and 600,000 euros. it happens very quickly. you give me the bag and we leave and then i get to the bakerfast, because the people i was meeting, i did not know them. i could be set up. the police had rigged the ambulance driver's office with secret cameras. they watched him count more than 5 million euros of drug money injust nine months.
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the ambulance driver was in the basement of that building, counting his drug money. there was so much of it, he needed his little brother to help and a machine that was so noisy, they had to turn the tv up so the neighbours would not hear. the cash collectors were all working for one man. this crime boss was the money man for big—time drug dealers. he has been convicted in france but he is on the run in morocco. translation: nour eddine, who was in charge of the operation, was in casablanca where he has several companies in areas like property developer and so we can assume their bank accounts are largely funded with the profits he makes from this case. his gang brought to millions of pounds of european drug cash to paris, but that was just the start. the criminals now needed to get their millions in small bank notes into the financial system and into the drug bosses‘ bank accounts, to do that, they needed to move their money again. the gang wanted to swap the drug
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money for something easy to move and hard to trace. they came here, to antwerp. they were looking for gold. it is much less bulky so if you looked at £10,000 in cash, it would be quite a big bulk of money. if you put that in gold, it is really tiny, you could move that across a border undetected. to stop money—laundering, cash purchases over 3000 euros are banned here.
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but the gang had a gold dealer willing to break the rules. his name is georghe bluchner. on the first floor of that building over there, the offices of georghe bluchner‘s old company and from those offices, he arranged to hand over 200 kilograms of gold in exchange for 6 million euros of dirty drug cash. we have evidence the convicted money—laundering is still up to his old tricks. so we have gone undercover. belgian privacy laws mean we cannot show his face in our secret filming. but look what he says. one of the french journalists we are working with is posing as a money—launderer looking to buy large quantities of gold with dodgy cash.
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despite his conviction, it seems mr bluntner is still happy to take dirty money. he was also caught faking invoices to make black—market gold dealers look legal. is he still doing that, too? we wrote to mr blutner to ask why he is still happy to help money launderers. we wrote to mr blutner to ask why he is still happy to help money launderers. he didn't respond so i have come to ask him in person.
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mr blutner, hello, i'm andy verity from bbc panorama. will you answer some questions for me? no. it is very important, we have asked you these questions. no. why are you willing to accept large sums of cash, higher than the legal limit come in exchange for gold? mr blutner, you have been convicted, you know it is illegal to accept more than 3000 euros of cash, why have you offered to do it? we have seen evidence. why are you helping criminals to get rich on dirty money? aren't you playing a very dangerous game here? notjust with your own liberty but with other people's? mr blutner was a crucial link for the crime gang. he turned their drug cash into gold, so they could smuggle it out of europe. the more you move across the border,
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the harder it is for the investigator to really track that back to the original source, and you can move intojurisdictions that will ask very few questions and sell them on. they gang knewjust the place to go to — dubai, the city of gold. it is a magnet for business, money and extravagant wealth, and it has become one of the world sent for money—laundering. millions of dollars of dirty money flows through dubai every year. that is because the money—laundering checks here are pretty weak and it has a huge gold market. the gang brought their gold here to sell it for clean cash.
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we have discovered how one of dubai's biggest companies had all the cash they needed. kaloti is a gold refiner. it buys gold from all over the world and melts it down into bars. in 2013, it needed to show it was meeting new rules to keep dodgy gold out of the system. it called in the big british accountancy firm, ernst and young, or ey. amjad rihan was the auditor in charge. he discovered kaloti was handing out billions in cash in exchange for gold. my team started conducting these audits and it is really shocking, what they were finding.
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kaloti has done more than $5.2 billion in cash in one year. so people are coming to them with gold? yes. and they are handing over cash? yes. and they had over $5.2 billion in cash? yes, which is really shocking. myself, my team, they haven't seen such a thing in their lives. $5.2 billion was withdrawn by kaloti from local banks. we have been told there was so much cash, bank staff had to use wheelbarrows. on an average week, kaloti withdrew $100 million. that's 20 loads like this every working day. if i found it was this, that was collecting and handing out, you know, $100 million per week in cash, i would be enormously suspicious. when people are dealing in large amounts of cash, the expectation is, it is more likely to be for criminal purposes than legitimate.
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we have seen a transcript of a dubai court case. it shows cash in the wheelbarrows had originally come from kaloti's accounts at deutsche bank. one deutsche bank lawyer said, "never before had i seen such a catalogue of suspicious circumstances". this is the lawyer. anna waterhouse was deutsche bank's head of compliance in dubai. a colleague came into my office and described a call from our local bank in dubai. the guys at the bank had noticed that kaloti had been withdrawing very large amounts of money, so large that they had to remove this physical cash in wheelbarrows.
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now, i was... ..amazed. they said, "we can see that quite a lot of this money is being funded by a deutsche bank account", so that was why they had called us. with all that cash changing hands, we wondered if kaloti had bought gold from the money—laundering gang we have been tracking. amjad still has thousands of documents from his audit for ey. so we asked him to search for some of the criminals‘ names in the data. and it paid off. i can't describe to you, the moment i saw the 100% match, those names that you gave me, they are exact same names in the documents i have, and those people were shipping their gold to kaloti.
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the most significant name is adbdel wahid ech—chaouti, the brother of the crime boss who ran the money—laundering gang. his job was to sell the gangs dirty gold in dubai. he did it through his company, renade international. amjad's documents show renade sold 3.6 tonnes of gold to kaloti. let me show you, renade international has received about $116 million in cash. 146 million? that is the amount that has been handed over to the money launderer‘s company by kaloti in cash in one year? in one year, in cash. even the french police had no idea this was happening. translation: we suspected
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that there was a lot of activity we didn't know about, but these are huge numbers. obviously, the money—laundering was bigger than we discovered in this case. and there is little doubt ech—chaouti's gold is linked to drugs. the documents show his company, renade international, bought some of it from the corrupt belgian gold dealer georges blutner. so the belgian company crops up here, to? yes, this company, it is here in the audit records. it is a 100% match. kaloti told us it conducted all appropriate anti—money—laundering checks, and it would never knowingly enter into a trading relationship with any party engaged in financial impropriety or criminal activity ofany kind.
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it said cash payments were common in dubai but it's no longer buys gold for cash. by buying and selling gold, the gang turned dirty cash into clean cash. now they needed to get it into bank accounts. so they used dubai's money exchanges to turn the cash into international bank transfers. that is one of the money exchanges used by the drug gang. documents show that ech—chaouti walked in there with hundreds of thousands in cash and sent it to accounts all around the world. the gang sends out more than a quarter of a billion in respectable—looking bank transfers, and clean money finds its way back
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to the drug dealers. translation: it is pretty smart. if investigators see a bank transfer, this will not be in the name of renade international but the name of the money exchange. it is then very hard to make the link between the cash deposited in dubai and the drug trafficking in the suburbs of paris. the gang had successfully helped drug dealers from europe and britain to cash in on their crimes. it shouldn't have been possible. deutsche bank reported the wheelbarrows full of cash to the authorities. anna waterhouse told dubai's central bank about it, but she says they did not take action against kaloti. they went after her
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and the bank instead. they turned it around on me and he's telling me, "it must have been you, you did this". their reaction to you blowing the whistle was to accuse you? to accuse me of laundering the money myself. anna also told another regulator, the dubai financial services authority, dfsa, which launched an investigation into deutsche bank but it did not centre on the cash. instead, it quickly focused on anna. it seemed like a giant fishing expedition, intended to find a problem of any sort within the bank. what i did not realise at the time was that i was also the focus individually of their investigation. the dfsa found deutsche bank had broken regulations in an unrelated case. senior bank bosses were in serious trouble. it looks like they sacrificed anna and saved themselves. the court transcripts show senior
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managers discussed a plan to offer up miss waterhouse to express settle everything for the bank. the bank escaped with a reduced fine and anna was the only manager sanctioned. she is now appealing through the courts. i've been a victim in all of this. it has cost me my career. it has cost me... ..the last six years of my life. it has caused myself and my family untold suffering. and nobody seems to care. they don't even seem to have a conscience about what has happened.
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the dfsa said it had no part in any plan to offer up anna waterhouse. it said there was ample reason to take action against her and the decision was made in good faith. it said it was not motivated by her decision to report suspicious activity. deutsche bank told us it disagreed with our depiction of its treatment of anna waterhouse. it said the matter was thoroughly investigated more than five years ago by the bank external advisers and the dfsa. but it would be inappropriate to comment further because of the legal action. "the bank takes anti—money—laundering very seriously, and has further strengthened its controls." there was another opportunity
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to stop the crime gang laundering british drug cash. auditor amjad rihan wanted to report his suspicions about kaloti to the money—laundering authorities. but he says his bosses didn't want to. if you identify a suspicious transaction, you should report it to the authorities. and what we identified was way beyond suspicion. instead of reporting the crimes that i told them about, my bosses just covered them up. it wasn'tjust the $5.2 billion that amjad was worried about. his team also found kaloti bought gold bars that had been coated silver and smuggled to dubai.
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what amjad did not know at the time was that the crime was committed by the money—laundering gang. the coated gold was smuggled by ech—chaouti's company, renade international. one of those convicted gangsters was the very beneficiary, owner, of the same exact company that was supplying kaloti with gold bars coated silver. the same finding that my bosses wanted me to cover up. documents show how ey even advised kaloti to cover up the purchase of the smuggled gold. in this report, kaloti seems to admit buying gold bars coated silver, but ey deletes the words "bars coated with silver", and instead inserts, "certain documentary
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irregularities". ey turned the crime into a documentary irregularity. why is it so serious if you see suspicious activity and you don't report it? you are committing a criminal offence. under the proceeds of crime act, by failing to report the suspicion, you with the individual in that regulated institution could be prosecuted. —— as the individual. kaloti categorically denied it purchased gold coated in silver from the money—laundering gang or anyone else. ey has denied it needed to report in the uk. it says all reporting obligations were complied with, including to the relevant regulator in dubai. and its work ultimately resulted in the remediation of the issues. ey said amjad had raised certain unfounded allegations in a legal claim which was
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being vigorously defended. amjad is suing ey for damages. like anna, he lost his job after blowing the whistle. since i lost my career and was pushed out from ey, i haven't been able to earn much money. it has been really, really tough on us as a family, financially. it has been years in court, really, in orderfor me to carry on with life, i try not to think about how tough it is. the financial system is supposed to keep dirty money out. but our investigation shows how criminals can cash in from their crimes.
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people deal drugs to make money. money and drug dealing driver violence on our streets, and money—laundering generally helps oil the wheels that create all this chaos. a big city firm was prepared to turn a blind eye to money—laundering, and the two people who blew the whistle have both been punished. frankly, it's changed me as a person because i find it extremely difficult to trust in authority or to trust in people. i've been let down by so many people that i find it extremely difficult to trust anybody any more. more than $250 million was laundered around the world, because too many people chose to look the other way.
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