Feds seize $12M, allege its part of money laundering scheme

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DETROIT (AP) — Federal prosecutors in Detroit have seized about $12 million in cash that they allege was part of a money laundering scheme operating between the U.S. and the United Arab Emirates.

A forfeiture complaint unsealed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Detroit alleges that some of the laundered money was used to buy armored vehicles for an illegal drug trafficking operation based in Michigan, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Prosecutors are seeking court approval to allow the U.S. Treasury to keep the $12 million in cash, which was seized in separate actions in 2020 and 2021.

The forfeiture complaint alleges that “The Shadow Exchange” moved cash from the United Arab Emirates to the U.S. using shell companies, mostly located in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

Those shell companies allegedly used fake invoices and other methods to disguise the origins of money, sent to banks — including major U.S. banks — using dozens of wire transfers.

“The Shadow Exchange provided services to persons seeking to transfer U.S. dollars in a manner calculated to avoid anti-money laundering measures of the financial system and the scrutiny of international law enforcement,” the complaint states.

It does not identify any specific individuals suspected of being involved in the money laundering but states that “at least one international criminal organization” was among its customers.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael El-Zein, one of the prosecutors involved in the case, declined to comment on the case.

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