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Turkey detains 280 suspects in money-laundering probe into transfer of $419 million

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Turkish police on Tuesday detained 280 suspects in a money-laundering investigation into the transfer of about 2.5 billion lira ($419 million) worth of foreign currency to bank accounts abroad, Reuters reported.

The vast majority of recipients of the funds were Iranian citizens resident in the United States, according to a statement from İstanbul’s chief public prosecutor cited by Turkish media.

Police teams launched raids in 40 provinces and had arrest warrants for 417 people, the state-owned Anadolu news agency reported.

The probe was aimed at individuals who “targeted the economic and financial security of the Turkish Republic,” the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office said, according to CNN Türk.

The Hürriyet newspaper said on its website that among those facing arrest were individuals with links to Kurdish, leftist and Islamist militant groups and that some were also being investigated for drug trafficking.

One banking source said transactions of the kind targeted in the investigation are carried out by third persons who send money to accounts abroad in exchange for commissions.

“The money they send is not their own. They try not to be noticed by always making transfers in small amounts and make a profit from it,” he said.

“People who are subject to limitations on transferring money abroad use this method, getting others to make the transaction in exchange for commissions,” the source said.

“But because the money is again forwarded to unrelated third persons, it violates money laundering regulations.”

The prosecutor’s statement said the suspects were accused of receiving commissions for sending the money to 28,088 accounts abroad. The transfers were made from various bank branches and ATMs starting from Jan. 1, 2017 in amounts of 5,000 lira and more, the statement said.

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