Originating from 8th century South Asia, Hawala banking is used all over the world, particularly by the Islamic community as a funds transfer system. As opposed to using bank wire transfers, money is transferred through the broad network of Hawala dealers.
The Hawala dealers, or brokers, are also known as Hawaladars and run the system to be dependent on trust and maintaining a balanced book. It could be described as a remittance channel and money doesn’t cross any borders and it operates through an underground system.
Hawala banking is often used to fund dangerous or suspicious activities and is therefore seen as potentially nefarious. It is not illegal in the UK, but the rules and regulations of England and Wales need to be adhered to to ensure it’s a legal practice.
If you’ve been involved in a Hawala transaction that has not complied with regulating and have received allegations of money laundering or funding terrorist groups, it’s essential to seek competent advice from money laundering solicitors immediately.
To help you to understand what the outcome might be as a result of being convicted of a Hawala banking offence, we’ve detailed the sentencing guidelines below. Please note that a competent and experienced solicitor may be able to get any prison sentence reduced or even avoid it entirely.
Hawala banking provides a service for migrant workers to send remittances to their family in their country of origin. The system makes it possible to avoid paying the fees of formal bank transfers. Hawala provides a convenient, fast, and the commission rates are affordable compared to traditional banking. In some cases, Hawala banking dealers will allow senders to transfer money without any fees needing to be paid.
The role of the Hawala dealers is to not only facilitate money transfers but to also balance the inflow and outflow of money. This can sometimes overflow into areas beyond cash, such as services or even property. Any Hawala dealer who does not keep his end of the agreement will be tagged as being without honour and will be ex-communicated from the network or region.
The Hawala system is built on honour, trust and relationships that are either family-based or regional.
With Hawala being an excellent way for legitimate ex-pats to send money to those back at home, it’s also a form of underground banking. Providing an anonymous route and without a paper trail to understand the source of funds, it becomes an attractive means for money launderers and terrorists to transfer money from one country to another. It’s also a way for corrupt politicians and those who prefer to evade taxes to keep their wealth and financial activities in the dark.
In some countries, Hawala banking is illegal due to the lack of paper trail and bureaucracy.
Here are some examples of Hawala banking that may have led to the situation at hand. You may be under police investigation if you have taken part in the following acts:
Sending money to fund terrorist groups – hiding behind the anonymity of Hawala banking to send money to terrorist groups is considered to be illegal.
Money laundering – Hawala banking can be used to launder money.
In some cases, your transactions may have been legitimate. The best response to being accused of illegal transactions is to take the advice of a competent and experienced Hawala banking lawyer or a money laundering solicitor.
These are just a few examples of illegal Hawala banking; there are several others. If you would like to know more about crimes that are categorised as Hawala banking offences, you can always contact us for more information. Call us on 0208 888 5225.
A Hawala banking case that reaches court and secures a conviction is likely to get a prison sentence of at least four to five years. The penalty may even be ten years or more, depending on how severe the crime is. For money laundering, the sentence can be as long as 14 years. For funding a terrorist group, the penalty can be 10 years.
In most cases, the time will be reduced with some of the sentence being spent back in the community but on a license. During this time, the convicted would not be able to offend again, or they would return to court to be resentenced and may spend further time behind bars.
The information that judges are given with regards to sentencing is only guidelines, and each case will be looked at individually. One of the factors judges consider in every case of this nature is the defendant’s level of genuine remorse, the seriousness of the crime and the amount of harm caused.
The following factors are considered when the court decides which sentence to give. They will look at:
Certain aspects of a case are known as the mitigating aspects which can influence the sentence that a judge gives. In Hawala banking cases, they may include:
In recent years, several changes have been made to the sentencing system in the UK to save the court time and cost and to protect witnesses from the stress of needlessly going through a trial. For offenders aged 18 and over, pleading guilty early on in a case can reduce a sentence by as much as one third (maximum). The later the plea is entered, the smaller the reduction.
‘Early on’ refers to ‘the first stage of the proceedings’ and means anytime up to and including the first hearing at the Magistrates Court or Crown Court for indictable offences.
If a plea is entered 14 days after the first hearing, for example, the maximum level of reduction is just 20% or one-fifth of the sentence. For indictable offences, the limit for a guilty plea to be made is within 28 days after the prosecutor has stated compliance with section 3 of CPIA 1996 and serving disclosure; although the decision is ultimately in the hands of the Judge who has the discretion to apply whatever credit is deemed appropriate.
After these times, there is a sliding scale of credit applied. This goes down to one-tenth on the first day of the trial and to zero if entered during the course of the trial. In theory, the ten per cent could be given if the plea is issued after the opening speeches on the first day, but prior to any witness evidence being heard.
If the accused does not want to plead guilty, then it’s important for the solicitor to regularly inform the court throughout the trial of the reasons why the client’s plea is not guilty.
A court can also make ancillary orders on a defendant if they are found guilty and convicted of a Hawala banking offence. These are extra elements of punishment that can be added to a sentence and include additional restrictions or requirements that can affect a dependent’s finances, your property or business or financial activity.
Ancillary orders that are typically added to the penalty for those who are found to be guilty of Hawala banking include:
As part of your investigation, you may also have your assets frozen with the possibility of having cash or other assets seized.
In addition, the court may demand payment of the following if the accused is convicted:
Payment of costs applied for by the prosecutors
Although the police meet some of the costs involved in the prosecution, the costs of investigation are typically sought from the convicted. These may include the costs of:
The term victims’ surcharges can be explained as paying compensation to a fund for victims and can range between £20 to £170 depending on what sentence you were given at conviction.
There are several national databases that hold information about individuals and any allegations made about them, their criminal and court records. These include the DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) which was previously known as the CRB (Criminal Record Bureau) and the Police National Computer (PNC). Depending on what happened, whether the accused is convicted and what sentence was issued, the accused may be added to one or all these databases. Their purpose is to provide information to potential employers and to regulate the ability to take part in certain activities.
If your case progresses to court and you are convicted of a Hawala banking offence, your conviction will be noted on your CRB / police record. The period of the endorsement will depend on the nature and length of your sentence.
Below are details on how long you will be listed as holding a criminal record if convicted. This is something very serious to consider when it comes to future employment. The term ‘spent’ refers to when your name can be removed from the databases.
(the time it takes for the sentence to become ‘spent’)
|Sentence||Adult (aged 18+) at time of conviction||Young person (aged under 18) at time of conviction|
|Prison sentences of more than 4 years||Sentence is never spent||Sentence is never spent|
|Prison sentences of more than 2.5 years (30 months) but less than 4 years||Sentence length 7 years||Sentence length 3.5 years|
|Prison sentences of more than 6 months but less than 2.5 years (30 months)||Sentence length +4 years||Sentence length +2 years|
|Prison sentences of less than 6 months||Sentence length + 2 years||Sentence length +18 months|
|Conditional Discharge||Length of order||Length of order|
|Conditional Caution||3 months||3 months|
|Simple Caution / Youth Caution||None – immediately ‘spent’||None – immediately ‘spent’|
|Other Including Compensation Order, Supervision Order, Bind Over, Hospital Order||Length of the order / once compensation is paid||Length of the order / once compensation is paid|
If you’ve been contacted by the police and arrested, charged or even just invited to the police station for a chat, it’s vital that you seek legal guidance immediately. Communicating in any way with the police without legal support can put you at significant risk of being given a term in prison.
The primary goal of the police is to secure convictions. They do this by trying a range of different approaches and techniques in a bid to get you to incriminate yourself. They will not disclose all the evidence that they have against you and are going to use as part of their prosecution.
Some evidence is likely to be withheld from your knowledge or vision, but by having an experienced Hawala banking legal expert by your side, you can give yourself some protection against the police and their tactics.
Another benefit of engaging competent and experienced Hawala banking lawyers is that they can provide you with guidance on what to say and what not to say. The police will ask you many questions, and this can be gruelling and exhausting. With a legal professional by your side, you can answer confidently, knowing that you’re not getting yourself into deeper and hotter water.
Your solicitor can immediately begin to create a robust defence strategy to secure you the best possible outcome should your case reach court. Alternatively, your solicitor may even be able to get your case dismissed before it reaches the court stage.
If there are other people involved who have been accused and are involved in your case, it’s vital that you know what’s being said by whom. Gaining access to this information isn’t always possible, but there is a good chance that your lawyer will be able to make contact with the other legal help involved in this case to minimise damage.
The Hawala lawyers at Stuart Miller have defended those accused of Hawala banking offences at all levels. No matter what role you played in a Hawala banking case, Stuart Miller Solicitors have substantial expertise in understanding your case, your circumstances and the way in which the prosecution will seek to prosecute you.
Owing to daily handling of Hawala banking cases, our solicitors have the very best Barristers and QCs to choose from. We can instruct international agents to make enquiries abroad; we can engage financial experts to analyse the trail of funds, we can work with telephony experts and computer evidence evaluation experts to build your defence case.
Stuart Miller Solicitors are one of the most experienced and talented firms for defending Hawala Banking Cases and representing Money Transfer Businesses. We have defended some of the most high-profile and complex cases of recent times and have developed specialist expertise and skills in defending these cases.
We are fully adept with the challenges you are likely to face when building your defence and have successfully made complex legal arguments which can be used as precedents in this arena.
When you contact us to instruct us to be your lawyer in your Halawa banking case, we can help you by guiding you on the best way forward. We can then investigate the information that you’ve provided us to find a way to provide you with defence.
You will feel more at ease about the situation as you’ll know that we are handling it for you. We have a specialist team who are very up to date on Halawa banking financial rules and regulations.
In any legal case, early action is pivotal to increasing the chances of success. In cases of this nature, you will require specialist advice at every step. If you have been served with a Restraint Order, you have had cash seized or your money confiscated; rest assured our fraud lawyers will advise you on all aspects of your investigation or prosecution.
If you’d like to have a no-obligation chat with us before you instruct us to take your case, then call us today. In addition to giving you a free consultation, we can also represent you at the police station if you’ve been arrested. We can look at securing your legal aid.
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