The tall, dignified Arab straightened his crisp white dishdash and stood up to leave. He did not show it, but he despised this Asian bandit and these lazy European thugs. He was the principal of Al-Barakat, one of the best known hawala brokers in Dubai. The transfer of $1.25 million on a man’s word was not a big deal. But he preferred to deal with honest men, not infidels.
The cash took up most of a pallet. Thick bundles of notes were tightly wrapped. They did not look well-travelled. He had counted them out of his vault only that morning. But the money had travelled a long way electronically before he had received the call from his cousin in Antwerp.
The money had begun its journey in a bank account Nikos Canopoulos used to help ease his oil business in Bulgaria. From there it had hummed along wires to a small bank in the Dutch Antilles. It had landed in the accounts of a company registered in Delaware, USA. Nikos had learnt long ago that all the best shell companies have US bases. From there it had moved with easy speed along more lines to the Luxembourg account of a Liberian-registered trading company. A quiet, sober Belgian lawyer had given the bank the right codes, and the cash jumped into the account of a small, anonymous greengrocer in the back streets of Antwerp.
That greengrocer was the Arab’s cousin. He was the main conduit of cash between most of the UAE and the Arab diaspora in Antwerp. Given the need of UAE women for lots of diamonds, it was a busy cash route. It was less usual for money to come back east, and his cousin and he were glad of it. But now it was done. Hawala had delivered the cash without trace to this Asian, and he would leave.
“You sit down. You go nowhere. We count money now,” barked Ah Hing. He pointed at the two Europeans dressed in khaki shorts and shirts. “These men go to use money today. We do not want our friends to be disappointed.”