Obvious role for US investigators in Dubai murder case

Fraudulent credit cards used in the assassination of Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh could prompt the FBI to look into the US-based financial firms alleged to have provided them.


    Financial institutions based and incorporated in the United States have now been fingered by Dubai Police as having issued credit cards to some of the now dozens of suspected assassins of Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.  

    The fraudulent cards were said to be used to book hotel rooms and pay for air travel. 

    The firms allegedly involved include Meta Financial Group Inc, based in Storm Lake, Iowa, and Payoneer, a New York-based online payment company that provides pre-paid Mastercards.

    Payoneer also has a research and development centre based in Tel Aviv.   (I find it mildly amusing that Payoneer is pimped out on the Birthright Israel website).

    I also find the Payoneer connection interesting given that its CEO is Yuval Tal, a former Israeli special forces commando. Mr Tal did not exactly conceal his prior affiliations when he appeared on Fox News during the 2006 Lebanon war. He opined then that "this is a war that Israel cannot afford to lose".

    If Tal or his Payoneer firm are in any way involved in the conspiracy to help a foreign intelligence service (like, say providing Mossad operatives with credit cards), he may soon find himself in his own battle with little prospects of winning - in a US courtroom. 

    The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is the lead agency with statutory authority and responsibilities for investigating foreign espionage activities on US soil.  It's a job they take seriously and with a proven record of not shying away from the numerous instances when America's special ally played foul.

    As an initial inquiry, I imagine case agents will subpoena all financial records associated with the fraudulently issued credit cards. This would include the original credit card applications, which requires such things as a delivery address (to mail the card to), social security numbers, dates of birth, and employment information.

    If the applications were made on paper, then the documents may contain all manner of evidence, from handwriting samples to fingerprints. There will be a similar trail to pore over if the applications were made over the phone or electronically via computer.

    I also smell money laundering, as the money was supposedly dumped into prepaid accounts to conceal its purpose and origination. So US investigators may even want to tap in on the US treasury department's crack financial investigator, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FINCEN).

    Don't be put off by FINCEN's location in a Northern Virginia building that resembles a toilet seat. They have all manner of ways of putting a ring around financial transactions and credit reports in all reaches of the world. 

    There is still no word on whether or not the US has begun co-operating.  On paper, there should be no reason why they would not. The Emirates are a friendly country to the United States and a member of INTERPOL. They have also been a key country used by the US administration to apply pressure on Iran, so presumably they want to keep them happy. 

    It's not clear if the FBI is silently participating or if its officials are fence-sitting.

    If it's the latter, then they may want to consider the following:  if a foreign national was murdered on US soil with the help of credit cards issued in the Emirates, what sort of co-operation would they demand? 



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