The Italian authorities have seized members of a criminal network working to provide financial funding to al-Qaeda affiliates in Syria, al-Nusra Front, through Turkey. This reinforces the fact that funding and terrorist fighters enter Syria through Turkish territory and demonstrates highly organised networks.
The Italian judiciary announced on Saturday September 7th the arrest of 10 people, two Italians and eight Tunisians, including an imam from Teramo on suspicion of financing terrorism in the Abruzzo region in central Italy, DW reported.
They are suspected of having set up forged accounts across several companies to collect large sums of money and evade tax, the prosecutor of L'Aquila, the largest city in the Abruzzo region, said in a statement.
The money was also "used to finance activities linked to al-Nusra Front," the former Syrian branch of al-Qaeda in Syria, before its name was changed to "HTS," the statement added.
The statement noted that some of the money was allocated to imams in Italy, "one of them was sentenced to conviction on charges of belonging to a criminal network for the purpose of committing terrorist acts, and another was expelled from Italy because of his extremist ideas."
The statement said that among the 10 people is an Italian accountant, noting the confiscation of property, real estate and money worth "more than one million euros".
The main source of the fund-raising was a Tunisian businessman living in Abruzzo, who, through his Building and Carpet Companies, managed to raise "illegal funds".
One of the methods he used in this way was to pay excessive wages to the staff and then demand that they redeploy the increase in cash, thus channelling it to illegal activities.
"We have reason to believe that the dismantled group was collecting secret money being transferred to Turkey, where it is being used to finance the departure of fighters to Syria," said L'Aquila Attorney General Michele Renzo.
According to the Turkish news portal, Ahval, it is not surprising that remittances of extremist organisations in Syria are carried via Turkey. Turkey has long been a major transit point for terrorists from around the world to join extremist organisations in Syria and Iraq.
Moreover, Ankara plays an important role in facilitating the entry and harbouring of leaders and elements of Isis and al-Nusra to provide the necessary resources and arms and smuggling them across the border.
Dozens of international investigations reveal that Ankara has used non-governmental organisations and humanitarian relief campaigns to transport weapons and all the organisations’ needed medicines, food and equipment under the supervision of the Turkish intelligence, based on agreements between the Turkish regime and the leaders of extremist organisations such as Isis and al-Nusra.