Beuteland: The money washing machine of the clans


How is money laundering going? When clans have looted money through robberies, they try to turn it into "clean" assets. WDR and rbb have researched the scam of money launderers.

From Rene Althammer and Olaf Sundermeyer, rbb

Clans have made their criminal profits in businesses and real estate, making business and profits in the legal market. It is not about individual family members, but about well-organized and internationally active groups, based on the widely ramified families. The Bund Deutscher Kriminalbeamter (BDK) is therefore referred to as "criminal business enterprise".

Petra Leister, senior prosecutor for organized crime in Berlin, also sees it that way. Since the mid-1990s, it has repeatedly investigated members of the same large families in Germany's largest public prosecutor. Everyone has a helping hand and is involved in many things, "says Leister. "Everyone who belongs to the family can participate in it", including those members who do not commit any crime themselves. Specifically, she describes the business model of a Berlin grand clan.

Sparkassenbeute converted into real estate

After the spectacular slump in a savings bank branch in 2014, she tried to explain the whereabouts of the prey worth almost ten million euros. As a result, her authority in 2018 then confiscate 77 homes of the family. The charge: Members of the clan would have "washed" the spoils and invested in real estate. Whether it can prove in the end that the money for the real estate comes from the slump in the savings bank, the courts have yet to decide.

The basis for the seizure was a change in the law that allows the judiciary to collect assets if it is unclear where the money for the acquisition came from. This also applies to the confiscation of the real estate of a Berlin grand clan. It is still uncertain whether the new law is constitutional. BKA President Holger Munch therefore speaks of a "pilot procedure" and that the Berlin prosecutors have shown courage to explore the possibilities of the law.

investigators luck

In the case of the savings bank robbery police and justice were lucky in their investigation. To destroy their tracks, the perpetrators set a fire. This resulted in an explosion in which the vault room devastated and one of the perpetrators was hit by a glass on the head. The analysis of the blood trace led to Toufic R. – at that time already known to the police. He was convicted, but the booty remained missing.

After the burglary, prosecutor Leister let the LKA investigators listen to the phones of some clan members. "We were amazed when we discovered that a family member was deregistering from public money. And then suddenly appeared as a real estate agent. "It was Karim R., a brother of the condemned Eunsinebreaker Toufic R.

Sudden wealth

Karim R., who lived for a long time from government aid, suddenly bought himself and on behalf of other real estate in Berlin. When the investigators took a closer look at the people involved, they discovered that they all belonged more or less to the family and that more family members have become property owners since 2010. Some lived in Berlin – others in Beirut, Lebanon. Particularly striking was a woman living in Beirut called Zainab F. Her husband is the brother-in-law of Toufic R., the convicted bank robber. In the meantime, Zainab F. in Berlin owns several apartments in the NeukOllner Sonnenallee and a 6000 square meter plot. The value goes into the millions.

For the investigators, a structure gradually became visible: they are sure that money has been laundered in this family network for years. The clan was said to have brought some of its criminal booty from Germany to Lebanon, the old homeland from which some family members had fled to Berlin in the turmoil of the Lebanese civil war. In Lebanon, the money should finally have entered the legal economic cycle with the help of family members. A part had landed on unsuspicious accounts, from which it was transferred back to Germany. And here real estate was bought.

Lack of fight against corruption

A path that the economist Mounir Rashed of the "American University Beirut" judges to be very understandable. For years he has been involved in the fight against money laundering at the International Monetary Fund. With corruption rampant in Lebanon, there are no reliable mechanisms to control where someone's money comes from. "If I tell the bank here, I want to transfer a million dollars to Germany to buy real estate, then they say, that's good, because they know that I have the millionth Our system says nothing about the origin of the money. " One must therefore control in Germany, from which source the money comes.

Money laundering, as from the manual

But even though Lebanon was considered a high-risk country in terms of money laundering, neither the notaries involved in the purchase of real estate nor the banks have taken the transfers from Lebanon suspect and reported. Also that in some cases the senders of money were not identical with the buyers did not bother anyone. For professionals this means "third party payment" if the buyer does not pay for himself. A classic case of money laundering, as from the manual.

The suspects from the respective clan in Berlin and Beirut remain silent or deny on request the allegation of money laundering. Even the head of the Berlin family, who is known for his media appearances Issa R., lulls off. When asked, he says that he does not know where the money for the real estate of the other family members came from.

Means of education are missing

It is also unclear to this day whether the authorities have found all the properties of the clan. In Germany, there is still no centrally searchable real estate register, so research is time-consuming and labor intensive. For the BDK chairman Sebastian Fiedler lies in the lack of overview of the ownership of real estate a key vulnerability, which is deliberately exploited by the clans and other criminal groups. "One can be quite sure that these Organized Crime structures know very well where money laundering works exceptionally well, so it does not stand out."

WDR / rbb report "Beuteland" can be seen today at 8.15 pm on the ARD.

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