Prosecutors in Saudi Arabia have successfully convicted six people who participated in a trade-based money laundering (TBML) operation involving expatriates and Saudi citizens.
The convictions follow moves last year by the authorities to improve to streamline the Kingdom’s tax and customs operations and coordinate interagency efforts to detect and prosecute money launderers abusing the country’s trade system.
Hefty prison sentences
The six newly convicted people, who have not been named, were convicted of money laundering charges and sentenced to 31 years in prison the Saudi Press Agency reported, citing the public prosecution service.
The court also seized funds and issued fines amounting to 152 million Saudi riyal (SR152 million – US$40.4 million), equivalent to the value of the funds the convicts channelled out of the Kingdom in a TBML operation.
That operation involved operators of commercial entities, including a furniture upholstery retailer, a flower shop and several fake establishments.
Citizens and expats
Expatriates and Saudi citizens were involved in money laundering transactions. The citizens allowed the expats to use their bank accounts in exchange for a monthly fee of SR10,000 to transfer illegally obtained funds out of the Kingdom under the guise of commercial activity.
The court rulings also included a travel ban on the convicted citizens for a period equal to their jail terms and the deportation of the expatriate convicts after serving their prison terms.
Coordination and consolidation
The convictions were secured due to concerted efforts and coordination between the public prosecution service, agencies under the ministry of commerce, Saudi Central Bank and the general authority for zakat, tax and customs (GAZTC).
In May 2021 Saudi Arabia announced a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the country’s public prosecution service and its general customs authority (GCA) in which they set out a clear course for enhanced information-sharing between them, including via periodic meetings and new data-sharing practices. TBML is one of three specific areas of cooperation contemplated in the MoU (Trade-based Financial Crime, 24 March 2021).
In the same month the Saudi council of ministers approved the merger of the general authority of zakat and tax and the GCA to form the GAZTC with the aim of coordinating and streamlining the country’s tax and customs procedures and enhance business and trade exchanges.
Categories: Trade Based Financial crimes News