Story By: James King, Sub-Editor: Marija Stojkoska, Agency: Newsflash
Over a thousand German cops have raided more than 80 properties in 25 cities as part of a major crackdown on a criminal gang consisting mainly of refugees who are suspected of funding Islamists.
Police have identified 67 people, including 44 Syrians and said that most of those in the gang came over to Germany in the wave of refugees that arrived in 2015 following Angela Merkel’s open-door policy.
The other nationalities include 10 Germans, five Jordanians and five Lebanese and two of these have reportedly been identified as being a threat because of their suspected ties to Islamic terrorism.
The major police investigation into the gang started after a car accident in May 2020 when police found EUR 300,000 in cash hidden in a bag in one of the vehicles.
North Rhine-Westphalia Justice Minister Peter Biesenbach, 73, described the arrests as a major crackdown against an international money laundering that started operating in 2016.
As well as the people arrested, police also seized cash and top-of-the-range cars including a EUR-330,000 Lamborghini Aventador that was seized in Düsseldorf, a Lamborghini Urus worth EUR-220,000 and a tuned up Porsche 911.
There are also other luxury items including a EUR-150,000 Burmester stereo sound system with speakers worth an additional EUR-30,000. In bank safety deposit boxes they found EUR-794,000 connected to the gang and in another safe in one of the properties, they found EUR-500,000. They also seized jewellery, watches and gold.
The gang also invested in property worth hundreds of thousands, and despite their enormous wealth even managed to get extra money in social welfare benefits.
The police say that the cash was used to fund a network of terror organisations like the Al-Nusra-Front, an Islamic fighting force in Syria that is connected to ISIS.
The raid happened in cities in the states of North Rhine-Westphalia, Lower Saxony and Bremen with 11 arrests.
The money was believed to have been earned by the gang’s activities that included extortion, drug trafficking, robberies and kidnapping, with the total amount flowing through the hands estimated to be over EUR 140 million.
North Rhine-Westphalia’s Interior Minister Herbert Reul said: “The gang’s criminal activities are made all the worse by the fact that they bring into disrepute the genuine refugees who have a real need to seek protection in our country. It is sickening that there are a few people who claim they want to build a new life here away from war and then use that to commit serious crimes. It’s made even worse in cases like this where the money they obtain goes back to the Middle East, presumably to finance more war and terror there.”
Police say that they also seized numerous computers and laptops which are now being evaluated to assess the money laundering network used by the gang.