New nonstop flight from Dubai to Panama a terrorist financiers’ dream?
MIAMI, USA -- Emirates Airlines has announced that, commencing in early 2016, it will offer service between Dubai, UAE, and Panama, a 17-1/2 hour flight that will become the world's longest nonstop journey, a total of over 13,800 km (8,625 miles). The airline will operate a Boeing B777-200LR extended range on the route.
Financiers for Hezbollah and a number of other sanctioned Middle East terrorist groups must be jumping up and down for joy, for their jobs will become much easier. The amount of international trade between Panama and the Middle East is nominal, but the nonstop flights will greatly facilitate both illicit (i.e. money laundering) transactions, and terrorist financing operations.
Hezbollah, Hamas, and many other specially designated global terrorist organizations raise funds through drug trafficking and other illegal activities, which are laundered and moved into and through Panama. Bulk cash smuggling, via business jet, from Venezuela, into Panamanian general aviation airports is the most common method of transport.
The cash is readily accepted in the vast majority of Panama's banks, who seldom, if ever, check source of funds, and beneficial ownership, and are turned into cashiers' checks, or other monetary instruments.
Now, with an easy method of moving these financial instruments, by carrying them on board an Emirates flight to Dubai, and immediate deposit into local banks, or transshipment to Lebanon, terrorist financing is facilitated.
The reverse, nonstop travel from Dubai to Panama, will allow terrorist financiers to enter Latin America without the necessity of transiting Europe or North America, where their identities could be recorded.
Given the widespread corruption that pervades Panama, it is doubtful that either arriving or departing passengers on Emirates will be monitored or their baggage examined in Panama. Money managers for Hezbollah could well be regulars on those flights.
By Kenneth Rijock
Kenneth Rijock is a banking lawyer turned-career money launderer (10 years), turned-compliance officer specialising in enhanced due diligence, and a financial crime consultant who publishes a Financial Crime Blog. The Laundry Man, his autobiography, was published in the UK on 5 July 2012.