Scary Iran Plot: Follow the Money

A number of people–from MadDog to the Administration–have claimed that the money trail in the Scary Iran Plot is what makes it credible.

I’d like to lay out what the Administration showed in the complaint–as opposed to in its predictable trail of anonymous leaks that the Administration apparently believes can replace actual evidence–regarding the money trail. I actually find their anonymous claims that the money trail shows more damning details to be more believable than some of the other things they’ve said about this. But the most solid evidence described in the complaint–as I described here–shows money being delivered with no explanation into the hands of a person, Individual #1, and from there being sent to the US. Yet Individual #1 doesn’t even appear to be Quds Force and was neither charged in the complaint nor sanctioned by Treasury.

Money was exchanged, but for what?

Before I lay out what the money details show, though, let’s lay out the many possible operations the money paid for. According to Manssor Arbabsiar’s confession, his cousin Abdul Reza Shahlai told him to go get drug traffickers to kidnap the Saudi Ambassador. Arbabsiar’s confession says it evolved into a capture or kill deal (though says it did so in conversations with Gholam Shakuri and Hamed Abdollahi, not Shahlai). The complaint also mentions plans of “attacking an embassy of Saudi Arabia” (Narc’s account of the May 24 meeting with Arbabsiar), for “a number of violent missions” (Narc’s account of purportedly unrecorded June-July meetings), “the murder of the Ambassador” (Narc’s account of purportedly unrecorded June-July meetings), and targeting foreign government facilities located outside of the United States, associated with Saudi Arabia and with another country [reported to be Israel]” (footnote 6 describing what Narc reported from these earlier meetings). The quotes from July 14 are ambiguous whether they refer to kidnapping or assassination of al-Jubeir. The quotes from July 17 include clear reference to killing what is presumably (thought not specified as) al-Jubeir. And note what the complaint rather damningly doesn’t mention, though Administration leakers admit?

The plotters also discussed a side deal between the Quds Force, part of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, and Los Zetas to funnel tons of opium from the Middle East to Mexico, the official said.

In other words, several things were being negotiated: the kidnapping and/or assassination of al-Jubeir, hits on embassies in Argentina, possibly some other horrible things, and drug deals. So we need to be careful to tie any payments to specific ops.

The use of two different codes in the taped conversations doesn’t make tying payments to specific ops any easier–the complaint mentions “painting,” or “doing” a building (September 2, 20, and October 4), which the FBI Agent interprets without stated confirmation in Arbabsiar’s confession as the murder, as well as the “Chevrolet” (October 5 and 7), which Arbabsiar’s confession says also referred to the murder (syntactically, though, the Chevrolet sounds like a drug deal, while the building seems more closely connected to the murder).

Finally, a conversation on September 12 seems to suggest (though the FBI Agent doesn’t interpret it this way) that Arbabsiar had presented Narc several choices of operations, and the plotters just wanted them to pick one to carry out. After insisting the price would be “one point five,” Arbabsiar told Narc, for example, that he could “prepare for those too [two] … but we need at least one of them” [ellipsis original]. He went on to say that if Narc did “at least one … I’ll send the balance for you” [ellipsis original]. Particularly given the two different codes–building and Chevrolet–it seems possible there were still at least two different operations (both Arbabsiar and Shakuri offer up the building, not the Chevrolet, when they are not being coached as the operation they’re most anxious about). At the very least, this means that two months after the two meetings supposedly finalizing the plan for the assassination, both the price and the objective remained unclear.

No quoted passage ties the $100,000, the $1.5 million, and the assassination

Those two meetings–which do tie money to an attack on the Saudis–took place on July 14 and July 17. Before those meetings even started, however, the $100,000 that was purportedly the down-payment for the al-Jubeir assassination had already been transferred to a middleman; Arbabsiar tells Narc that Individual #1 (who is not described in the same way the Quds officers are, and appears not to have been sanctioned with everyone else) got the “money at nine in the morning.” The quoted passages definitely tie what appears to be the $1.5 million to doing something with Saudi Arabia. “Take the one point five for the Saudi Arabia.” That might be doing something with the Saudi embassy, though later in the same conversation Arbabsiar does confirm Narc’s question that “you just want the main guy.” Given the number of plots they were discussing, that’s not definitive that the $100,000 was tied to the al-Jubeir plot at all, nor is it definitive that the “one point five” was the agreed upon payment for assassinating–as opposed to kidnapping–al-Jubeir. There is no quote that ties all these things together; but assuming the FBI Agent’s interpretation is not really wacko, it does seem this conversation ties the money to some kind of attack on al-Jubeir.

The July 17 conversation–which with the July 14 conversation, includes one of two discussions of bank account numbers for the transfer–makes the focus on assassination much more clear. Narc pretends his guys are in Washington (meaning there’s no doubt the attack in discussion was al-Jubeir rather than the Saudi Embasy in Argentina). And–in the sole quotations in the entire complaint that make it clear Arbabsiar was talking about assassination–in response to Narc’s cue, “I don’t know what exactly your cousin wants me to do,” Arbabsiar says his cousin “wants you to kill this guy” and goes on to say that if necessary, collateral damage of citizens is acceptable.

Consider how laughable this deal-making is. On July 14, Narc gives his price for the job. Then on July 17, he’s still looking for clarification about what the task really is! Nevertheless, the FBI seems to use the July 14 quotation as the definitive proof that a deal was done. I assume if Arbabsiar were really talking to Los Zetas, such sloppy deal-making would have already gotten him shot.

The whole connection between the money and the assassination here would be a lot stronger if the actual deal-making were shown, if the complaint explained how Arbabsiar came to ask for the $100,000 in the first place, particularly given that the conversations at least appear to show that the final deal and even the ultimate target seem to have been decided after the down payment got sent to Individual #1 (and I’ll suggest the later money issues may derive from lack of clarity even among the parties). That said, these two conversations–if the conversation had indeed come to focus just on the assassination, though we don’t know that it had–do seem to have tied the money to that killing.

The person who forwarded the money appears to be neither Quds Force nor sanctioned

Then there’s the question of whether Quds fronted the money. The complaint goes to some length to describe that Shahlai and Shuktari were paying Arbabsiar’s expenses, but given the general range of deals that got discussed and given that this whole process purportedly started in February, three months before the first conversation with Narc, I’m not sure that is a definitive tie to an assassination (particularly not the earlier chunk of money from Shahlai). And even the quote from the July 17 meeting describing Arbabsiar asking Shahlai for more money–which the FBI agent claims was tied to the assassination–includes no identification of it as tied to the assassination attempt.

I tell [Shahlai], give me just another fifteen. Just … next morning they send one guy, you know, that work for [Shahlai]. He’s like a colonel, the guy.

In fact, the passage doesn’t even include a description of when Arbabsiar asked for and got this money, which is pretty telling given that Narc was still trying to clarify what was the intended operation on that day.

The description of the $100,000 is more specific. The complaint describes the original transfer to Individual #1 (who as I noted above, is not described the same as the Quds Force figures and was not sanctioned by Treasury with the others) this way:

ARBABSIAR stated that the “money is [in] Iran,” and that he [ARBABSIAR] had received a call indicating the money would be at the house of a certain individual [“Individual #1”]. When Arbabsiar called Individual #1, “he [Individual #1] said he had it there” and that he [Individual #1] had received “the money at nine in the morning.”

The quoted passages go on to describe what almost certainly constitutes a clear intent to launder the money (though it’s not clear those methods were used in the actual money transfer, which seems to have been accomplished in two $49,960 chunks).

Not only does this passage not tie the $100,000 to QF, but even the person who called Arbabsiar to tell him Individual #1 would get the money was not described at all, and not in any way to tie him or her to QF. The complaint also doesn’t say the the two different “Foreign Entities” from which the money was transferred have any tie to QF. Likewise, in the quoted discussions of Arbabsiar making sure Narc received the money, there’s no indication of a tie to QF, to the assassination, or even to Shakuri. And even the complaint’s description of Arbabsiar’s confession (which does confirm these things) does not identify who approved the $100,000, instead using the passive voice: “A down-payment of $100,000 to [Narc] for the murder of the Ambassador was approved.”

Passages showing Shakuri aware of down payment don’t make sense

Now, in two of the three calls recorded while Arbabsiar was in custody, Shakuri seems aware that money has passed hands. But the tie of it to any murder relies on the syntactically odd treatment of Chevrolet as code for the murder. More importantly, the references are just bizarre (and since these are translations from Farsi, the confusion shouldn’t derive from the speakers using a second language–English–as is possible in conversations between Narc and Arbabsiar).

Arbabsiar: This boy wants, uh, some money, he wants some expenditure. What do you say, should we give him some more? He wants another 50.

Shakuri: With you, no, you … that amount is fine, [unintelligible] brought me another car. Tell him to finish his work, then we’ll give him the rest.


Arbabsiar: …this Mexican … keeps on insisting on the thing. He says, ‘If–I need money, 50. I won’t do the job if you don’t pay.’ And everything’s ready.

Shakuri: Okay.

Arbabsiar: What do you say now?

Shakuri: I don’t know. You guaranteed this yourself … of course, if we give it, we’ll give it to you. Okay? If he gives it, fine; if not we must provide the 100 [or] 50. Tell him [unintelligible] [emphasis mine, ellipses original]

Shakuri at first seems to approve another $50,000, then seems to suggest they’ve already taken delivery of a different car–for whatever car means (Arbabsiar said it was code for the assassination, but given that there have been no known assassinations [update: this one, which the Saudis blame on QF, would be too early], this passage seems to raise questions about that). The next passage is even weirder: at first Shakuri suggests that if they were to give more money, they’d give it to Arbabsiar, not Narc. How would that help things? Then Shakuri suggests that if Narc doesn’t “give it,” which contextually should mean if Narc doesn’t kill the Ambassador, then “we must provide provide the 100 or 50.”

Now, in all the conversations where Arbabsiar (surely at the instruction of the FBI) is trying to get Shakuri to agree to more money, he only says Narc wanted another $50,000. So in spite of the fact that one explanation for this is Shakuri saying that if Narc held out, they might have to meet his demand, it doesn’t explain why he’d have to pay Narc twice what he was demanding (unless Arbabsiar was being paid at a 100% cut on any job).

Another possibility is they’ve promised someone else to do the job or borrowed the money from someone. In which case, in response to a request for more money purportedly as a further down payment, Shakuri would be talking about paying some fourth party. In short, while Shakuri does seem to know some amount of money was forwarded, his discussion of it makes it sound less clear that QF provided the funding and that it was for the assassination, as opposed to one of the other deals being negotiated.

Is QF getting money from Iran … or giving it to another government?

There’s a similarly odd passage in the quotations purportedly showing that Shahlai was being funded for this by Iran.

[Arbabsiar] this is politics, ok … it’s not like, eh, personal … This is politics, so these people they pay this government … [Shahlai’s] got the, got the government behind him … he’s not paying from his pocket. [ellipses original]

Now this passage, unlike the last two (which are translations from Farsi), might best be explained by Arbabsiar’s less than perfect English. With that caveat, though, the bolded passage appears to suggest not that Iran was paying QF, but that QF was paying some other government (or someone else was paying Iran). QF is, as I understand it, the part of the Iranian government that bribes people like Hamid Karzai and the Taliban and presumably Shiite factions in Iraq. So while I consider this passage to be as unclear as the Shakuri passages, it at least provides a hint that some third entity sponsored whatever happened here (and given the possibility this includes an opium deal, Afghans are a possible explanation).

Why was the FBI so intent on getting additional money transferred?

Finally, I’ll leave you with this question. After the initial $100,000 was transferred on August 1 and 9, Narc is described as making at least three requests that more money get sent: on September 20, October 5, and October 7 (plus a conversation on August 28 where providing a guarantee first came up, and a conversation on September 12 where Arbabsiar insists the number would remain the same).

The FBI went to great lengths–but failed–to get the plotters to send more money.

If the one transfer, the $100,000, was such solid evidence, then why were they trying so hard to get another transfer?

39 replies
  1. orionATL says:

    if ever the phrase “half-baked” applied almost literally to a scam, it applies to this scam – be it a cia/fbi scam, or an iranian scam, or some measure of both nations. it’s a shame peter sellers is dead.

    i’d love to know which bank/account in iran the money was wired from, if indeed it was wired from iran.

    on another tact, one thing that struck me from ew’s account here is the length of time (two months) between the time arbab sugggested killing the saudi ambassador and the time he was arrested. doubtless he was under surveillance, but how could the feds/cia/dea know for sure that someone he had engaged might not be moving to assassinate the ambassador?

    well, one way is to have absolute confidence that all persons involved in any aspect of the plot were known quantities and that there was no unknown quantity running around loose to do harm or damage.

  2. eCAHNomics says:

    Assange made a surprise appearance at OWS London which was covered on democracynow headlines this morning. He mentioned dirty money laundering thru TBTF banks in Cayman & London. Got me thinking that’s going to turn out to be a much more gigantic scandal than any, like BCCI, that we’ve seen before. Unless they can keep it hidden, of course.

  3. rugger9 says:

    The evidence contiues to fall apart under scrutiny, no wonder the defense attorney said “IF” Arbabsiar is charged. This is the best DOJ can do?

    It’s all kabuki to shove the USA into a war with Iran, so Israel and Saudi Arabia don’t have to pay for it. That’s why Hillary had her own “Powell moment” at the UN, why AIPAC says nothing about the Kochs doing business with Iran, and so on.

    However, no one has the capability to sweep the Straits of Hormuz once the Iranians mine them, and no one seems to be paying much attention to the radio silence from Beijing and Moscow to denounce the plot. Either they are tacitly giving the Iranians a free hand, or they are going to do something more useful [ like obstructing sanctions or moving the nuclear program along] to knock us down another peg. After all, the USA is why they aren’t running the world now.

  4. eCAHNomics says:

    @rugger9: I can’t imagine a bigger mess for the Chinese & Russians to keep out of. As someone typed somewhere on another thread today: When your enemies are making fools of themselves, don’t interrupt.

  5. eCAHNomics says:

    @allan: I don’t remember that detail of Iran contra so thanks for that from the wayback machine. But yes, that’s what eventually happens, so inadvertent mistake that makes a big splash, like the tyke who shouts: But the emperor has no clothes.

  6. rg says:

    The request for additional funds, as well as the request for clarification as to the mission seem to be consistent with an attempt to get the cousin to commit on tape to full participation in the caper, which would eliminate the glaring holes in the case against him/them.

  7. rg says:

    @rg: And also too, trying to make sense of the transcript material reminds me of reading some of the heavily redacted documents we’ve seen in various court cases involving “state secrets”; you just can’t see the whole picture. The point you made about the time gap between February and the appearance of Narc relates well to my previous questions regarding how Arbabsiar came to link up with Narc. I have a feeling that the identity and purpose of whoever made the introduction is going to be more redacted information.

  8. Bob Schacht says:

    Speaking of money laundering, did you see the neat segment by Colbert comparing SuperPAC financing to money laundering? Makes me wonder if some of the laws on money laundering could be used to shut down some SuperPACs.

    Bob in AZ

  9. emptywheel says:

    Since we’re talking about money, I just had this thought.

    Which side do you think spent more money creating this plot? The US, in payments to Narc and our personnel coaching him? Or the ~$30,000 allegedly paid directly to Arbabsiar by the QF and the $100,000 down payment.

  10. eCAHNomics says:

    @Bob Schacht: No, usually konked out by Colbert time.

    Knee jerk reaction is that if superpacs are laundering money, it is more likely to make laundering money legal than it is to make superpacs illegal.

    But some have accused me of being thoughtlessly & unwarrantly and unproductively cynical.

    I yam who I yam. Reader’s choice.

  11. eCAHNomics says:

    @emptywheel: Considering that O takes 6-9 months to do the arithmetic that if he duz the Petreaus scheme (scam?) there will be more troops in Afpak when he runs for relection than when he took office (Woodward), that if you include the hourly comp of all those people in all those meetings, U.S. put far more $$ into this bogus scheme than anyone else.

  12. Bob Schacht says:

    @eCAHNomics: “I yam who I yam.”
    Popeye, the sailor man?
    Anyway, about all those yams, that is what I was. And I got to be right, a lot. However, it did not make me happy. Some then accused me of becoming a pollyanna. But then I was happier. Now, I swing back and forth, but unpredictably.
    And I am usually happy, though unpredictably. *g*

    Bob in AZ

  13. Bob Schacht says:

    This just in:

    Feds NOW Say Iran Government Knew NOTHING of Assassination Plot!

    5 min. video

    The government exposed a plot of it’s own creation and saved us from a danger that never existed.

    Feds revealed that high officials in Iran’s government knew nothing of assassination plot, but neocons demand bombs on Tehran no matter what the government there knew.

    In this most recent US government generated plot, no one was ever in danger. It was destined to go nowhere, as the Feds monitored and taped every move made by their target as he interacted with federal agents whom he stupidly believed to be drug dealers and co-conspirators.

    And this supposedly was from a Fox News show!

    Bob in AZ

  14. rugger9 says:

    That’s why I’m leaning toward the tacit involvement, i.e. “go ahead, boys, we’ve got your back”.

    The way we will see it is by what the Security Council does. If there’s a veto, the fix is in.

  15. orionATL says:

    at there is a news story that includes these final paragraphs:

    “…Reza Aslan, a religious scholar and author, told CNN on Saturday that the described plot doesn’t fit the Quds Force’s modus operandi.
    Using a drug cartel would be risky and a Quds Force agent would be more reliable than Arbabsiar, a used-car salesman in Texas, he said.
    “It’s sloppy. It’s uncharacteristic,” Aslan said. “It really does not serve Iran’s interest in any legitimate way.”
    Iran could more easily target Saudi diplomats in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere, Aslan said. “Doing so on U.S. soil is unmistakably an attack on the United States, not on Saudi Arabia.”…”

    it is this statement that drew my attention:

    “…Aslan said. “Doing so on U.S. soil is unmistakably an attack on the United States, not on Saudi Arabia.”…”

    take that statement as an assumption,

    then ask yourself:

    what nation would most benefit from the u.s. being attacked by iran?

    hint: in my view it most definitely would NOT be iran.

    cnn news article at:

  16. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Funny, I would have thought a credible analysis of the money trail is one thing that would make the Iran “plot” not credible.

    Another aspect that makes it – without a lot of new facts as yet undisclosed – not credible is that it would require the Iranians to be woefully unfamiliar with clandestine operations, international illegal flows of money, arms and drugs, drug cartels, US-Mexican relations, US-Saudi relations, and so on. In fact, it would require them to be as ignorant as a Texan schooled only with textbooks approved by Dick Cheney’s wife.

    Iran, however, has experience with most or all of those things. It gave the world one of its most feared secret police, Savak. Like post-Nazi Germany and post-fall of the Berlin Wall Russia, not all of its talent and methods has melted away. In short, the assumptions required to make this plot credible are so many and so egregiously out of touch, it sounds like something dreamt up by Jonah Goldberg.

  17. Mary says:

    Ok, so now Iran is going to investigate. And they are wanting Vienna convention consular access to Arbabsiar.
    The reasoning is great – they say that they don’t think he’s entitled, since he has dual citizenship. But heck, since they’ve allowed that kind of access for dual citizens before, this time it’s ok [sure, make arrangements let him talk with a representative of the government they are accusing of hatching the and pursuing the plot]

    And now there’s a fight about whether or not Susan Rice met with Iran’s representative to the UN – US anonymous sources say yeah, Iranian official mission statement is – Nope.

  18. orionATL says:


    this is a critical observation:

    “…Another aspect that makes it – without a lot of new facts as yet undisclosed – not credible is that it would require the Iranians to be woefully unfamiliar with clandestine operations, international illegal flows of money, arms and drugs, drug cartels, US-Mexican relations, US-Saudi relations, and so on. In fact, it would require them to be as ignorant as a Texan schooled only with textbooks approved by Dick Cheney’s wife…”

    just be cause we (americans don’t know much about another nation does not mean we can relegate them to lower-third world understanding of politics and diplimacy.

    despite its bad press here in the u.s.,

    bad press i consider hysterical echoes of bush and cheney’s “the wmd’s are coming. the wmd’s are coming.”,

    iran is a very competent state with a highly educated populace and a thousands-year-old history in the middle east.

    it is simply going thru (what china will eventually have go thru) to evolve to a higher level of democracy.

    at presenr, it is a partly secular/partly relious democracy with an urban population that is decidedly not deeply religious.

  19. orionATL says:


    Ok, so now Iran is going to investigate. And they are wanting Vienna convention consular access to Arbabsiar…”

    my response exactly, chuckle included.

    “what’s sauce for the american hypocrites on international law…”

    uh oh, i’ m stopping right here; this line ain’t got no poetic legs.

  20. P J Evans says:

    @Bob Schacht:
    The Iranians are apparently going to investigate this from their end. I would expect that they want to find out if the money was from their own treasury, and what their locals though they were getting into. And to make sure that the next time anyone gets ambitious, that it’s covered up better on their end.

  21. MadDog says:

    A couple of thoughts on EW’s post:

    1) As EW noted at the top of her post, the money makes this credible to me. I can’t say whether this was a deliberate US Intelligence-baited scam operation to use Arbabsiar to mousetrap Shakuri (and others) or merely a serendipitous coincidence that Shakuri (Dumb) and Arbabsiar (Dumber) put together this off-the-wall plot.

    2) If we can believe the taped conversations described in the complaint, the money is definitively tied to Shakuri. He knows about it and talks about it. As Shakuri is a member of Iran’s Qods (sp: Quds?) Force, that may tie the money to the Qods Force as well, but perhaps not.

    The money might come from official Qods Force coffers, but it might instead be drug money fronted by a friend of a friend of Shakuri and came from some as yet unknown financier who had it squirreled away under his mattress.

    3) Shakuri is up Shit Creek without a paddle. Based on the recent news reports that Iran will investigate this plot/scam, there doesn’t appear to be much good in store for Shakuri.

    If this was an Iranian government-sanctioned operation, then Shakuri & Co. well and truly fucked it up.

    If this was a rogue drug deal/kidnapping/assassination operation not sanctioned by the Iranian government, there too Shakuri is in deep doo-doo with his Iranian masters for the massive embarrassment it causes the regime, let alone for any other ills that may befall Iran as a result such as more sanctions imposed or even military attacks on Iran.

    In either case, I can’t see Shakuri enjoying la dolce vita anytime soon, and perhaps never again. Mousetrapped or stupid plot, Shakuri is toast!

  22. jerryy says:

    @earlofhuntingdon: “Funny, I would have thought a credible analysis of the money trail is one thing that would make the Iran “plot” not credible.”

    If this is a setup, then this part would be an easier part of the plot. (bear with me here) Recall after 9/11 that your banking at ATMs got immensely easier and more powerful. You got the ability to cash checks, transfer money, etc., etc. all from that little box with a screen and keypad.. This is because the planes were grounded, so the usual method of moving bank related materials, checks and what-not, stopped. The government took over (stole) the patent from the guy that invented the automatic check reader and gave it to all the banks to use in place of moving the physical paper. In exchange for this and in concert with this, algorithms were set up to automaticially flag transfers of money over certain amounts. So the best people to shepherd a plot involving money transfers are the ones that know intimately what triggers the warning flags, the ones who routinely monitor and analyze those transfers.

  23. emptywheel says:

    @MadDog: I think your concern for Shakuri is overstated.

    Given that we’re not investigating who assassinated a bunch of Iranian nuclear scientists or launched Stuxnet, I suspect the Iranians will instead tell Shakuri if he’s going to be punished for a US sting anyway, he should earn it.

    One more thing. Shakuri did know of the money. But to do what? The case that the downpayment was for the seemingly ever-changing goal of the assassination relies on those weird conversations at the end that provide some sense that they weren’t necessarily aiming for an assassination at that point. Maybe they were just trying to finalize the drug deal.

  24. MadDog says:

    @emptywheel: Concern? No, I was merely making an observation. I just can’t fathom his Iranian masters finding anything to be pleased about Shakuri’s tradecraft. Even if Shakuri was only talking on the phone about a drug deal, that seems rather incompetent given the known reach of American electronic surveillance.

    On the money, yes I do agree that it could have been to fund a drug deal, though I would raise the obvious point that the later apparent plotting for kidnapping and assassination was not likely to be done for free.

    And I would agree with you that nowhere in the complaint does Shakuri explicitly state that the object is to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the US. Like you, the FBI “interpretation” of the purported code words leaves me distinctly unconvinced. The only explicit talk about killing in the complaint is entirely between Arbabsiar and Narc.

  25. orionATL says:


    this is most interesting.

    did the 4am cargo flights ever resume?

    or did electronic data transfer conquer all from this moment on?

    i recall there was federal legislation about checking and how, as of a certain date, checks could be cashed very electronically and rapidly.

    was this a consequence of what you are commentimg about?

  26. jerryy says:


    1) Initially, but their scope was seriously reduced.
    2) Yup, and with the adaptation of cameras into phones, the electronic version is conquering the paper trail. At many banks, you the regular consumer, can now cash checks written to you by using your camera equipped cell phone. Just like the television commercials say you can.
    3) Absolutely.

  27. earlofhuntingdon says:

    @jerryy: I’m not sure what you’re saying. The US provided essentially free access to electronic check cashing – for banks – to assist its own efforts but also to save the banks at least multiple tens of millions in yearly admin costs, allowing them to dispense with physically moving paper via trucks, guards, drivers, to dispense with manipulating and reading each check, storing it, mailing it back to customers, etc. It also helped banks maintain their float, which earns them money, in that it permitted same day withdrawals of check amounts from bank to bank, but enshrined continued delays in making those amounts available to customer/payees.

    It was a win the banks lobbied for and persuaded a cooperative government to get them. As you say, the government won greater electronic access to funds flow for its domestic spying ops. The yield to customers was zilch. Banks still charged their fees, still manipulated customers into high-cost loans and penalty fees, still change terms and increase CC interest rates at a whim, ad nauseum.

    None of that would have been unseen by the world’s accountants, lawyers, top money laundering banks, and their clients, whether they were Swiss or Russian, Mexican, Chinese, Italian or American. Nor did any of the intelligence services miss it. It became a new background tool.

    Professional money launderers in NYC, the City, Zurich, other offshore locales, would have been aware of the flags placed on accounts, movements, etc. For a time, however, they may not have been aware the US was bugging systemic telecom networks (eg, in SFO) or that it had manipulated SWIFT into what is essentially a unilateral, unaccountable transfer of information to the US. Then again, in top banking and government financial circles, such things remain about as long as dating secrets remain confidential in junior high school.

  28. jerryy says:

    @earlofhuntingdon: Your capsule summary in the the first part about the quid pro quo should be read aloud in all of the ongoing mortgage fraud investigations and Senate and House Banking Oversight Committee hearings, especially those that ask ‘why with all of the cash the banks were stuffing down their own gullets did the crash occur’.

    But to the question in your second part, the transfers would have alerted a large number of people that something fishy was going on, even if they did not know the extent of the SWIFT data program or its predecessors (even UBS admitted that they knew about but ignored the rogue trading that almost crashed their company). In order to bypass the questions, if this is a setup, is to have someone that is already in the monitoring / analysis position pass things through.

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