Russian police have arrested, in a large-scale operation, six chiefs of a criminal ethnic community that were engaged in illegal banking transactions, with a capital turnover making up 1.5 billion roubles a month, the Russian Interior Ministry said in a statement on Monday.
The statement adds that as a result of the police operation, police have found and seized criminal evidence that the six have been engaged in illegal financial activities.
Police say the criminal ring consisted of several branches, each with their own agenda. Some of them collected the money, supervised the encashment of funds, their transportation to temporary deposits and distribution, while others transferred the funds to accounts in shell companies.
The money was procured as a result of financial maneuvers and illegal commercial activities carried out by foreign nationals, mostly from Central Asia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Abkhazia.
According to the statement, the presumptive criminals were engaged in shadow trading at major marketplaces of the Moscow region, as well as other Russian territorial entities, specifically the Pokrov City vegetable warehouse, the marketplaces of the Perm Territory and other major trading sites.
The funds were also transferred to foreign shell companies that totaled some 120 organizations, including offshore ones. In their illegal activities, "shadow bankers" made use of the informal value transfer system, known as hawala, which allows huge amounts of cash to be moved within a network of money brokers operating outside of traditional banking channels.
According to Russian police, this financial channel funded, among others, the international pan-Islamic terrorist group Hizb ut-Tahrir. It was banned from the country by a federal court decision in February 2003.
All six chiefs of the criminal ring have been arrested and are now facing multiple charges, including illegal banking and organized crime.
The police report says the criminal network comprised over 40 active members who performed individual tasks within the organization.
The Russian home affairs ministry told reporters it had taken the law enforcement over 18 months to identify every link in this illegal broker system that had been siphoning substantial funds overseas. A criminal case has been initiated to bring all those implicated in it to justice.