Hawaladar’s Lament

from Priceonomics

Hawaladar is a person who provides money services (hawala) to criminals. He is part of the criminal part of the shadow banking system. Shadow banking system is the banking services offered by non-banks. For example, a hedge fund could provide a loan to a company, which would be a shadow banking activity. Halawadar does something similar.

A Hawaladar is a person who moves money from one place to another using his network of contacts he’s developed usually from traditional import-export activity. So, for example, if a criminal in London wanted to payoff another criminal in New York in the amount of $10,000, the criminal could go to a Hawaladar in London, give the Hawaladar $10,000. The Hawaladar would call up an associate in New York and ask him to pay the criminal in New York $10,000. The Hawaladar in London would settle up with the associate in New York at a later time. The settlement usually is underpricing or overpricing of the goods being traded. The Hawaladar and the associate have both charged money for the service, of course, which the criminal in London is usually responsible for. And, in order for all of this to work, the associate in New York must trust the Hawaladar in London to settle up.

Nowadays, are Hawaladars really doing any trading? They are just a money service business.

The Hawaladar has been facing more competition over the past decade. Now, the London criminal could buy a prepaid debit card with cash at any store and then send that to the criminal. It does not require any intermediaries. The cost of buying a prepaid debit card is next to nothing. I think I could go to the corner store on my block and get one for about $5 and load thousands of dollars on it.

There are also other ways as well. People who do not have international trade businesses can get in on the Hawaladar game. I could pay off someone on behalf of a criminal using my PayPal account. I could use my Google Wallet. I could use my ApplePay. I could use Square, the payment service. I could use Venmo. I could use any store with a credit machine merchant account and pay them on my credit card and the store could pay off the criminal. It will just look like I paid for a product or service. I could even use Bitcoin.

The increasingly greater number of easy payment/transfer options are making it possible for criminal activity to be paid without the use of a Hawaladar.


What do you think was the weapon that was used to kill churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, confederate flag or gun?


About the Author: M. C. Maltempo is a compliance professional with more than a decade of experience helping banks, law firms and clients manage investigations and regulatory responses. 


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