Turkish prosecutors ordered the detention of 417 people in a money laundering investigation into the transfer of about 2,5 billion Turkish Liras ($419 million) worth of foreign currency to bank accounts abroad, according to a report by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency on Tuesday.
Turkish police teams launched raids in 40 provinces across Turkey and detained 280 suspects. Hürriyet newspaper said on its website that among those facing arrest were individuals with links to Kurdish, leftist and Islamist militant groups and that some were also being investigated for drug trafficking.
One banking source said transactions of the kind targeted in the investigation are carried out by third persons who send money to accounts abroad in exchange for commissions. “The money they send is not their own. They try not to be noticed by always making transfers in small amounts and make a profit from it,” he said.
“People who are subject to limitations on transferring money abroad use this method, getting others to make the transaction in exchange for commissions,” the source said. “But because the money is again forwarded to unrelated third persons, it violates money laundering regulations.”
The report said that the vast majority of the recipients of the funds were Iranian citizens residing in the United States, citing a statement from İstanbul’s Chief Prosecutor Office. İstanbul police teams launched raids across a number of provinces, searched properties and detained many people, the agency said.
The investigation was aimed at those who “targeted the economic and financial security of the Turkish Republic,” the İstanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office said.
The suspects were accused of money laundering, “forming a gang with the aim of committing a crime,” and “breaking a law aimed at preventing the financing of terrorism,” the statement said. The operation was launched by financial crimes police.
It said the suspects were accused of receiving the commission for sending the money to 28,088 accounts abroad. The transfers were made from various bank branches and ATMs starting from Jan. 1, 2017 with sums of 5,000 Turkish Liras and more, the statement said.