Chairman Bayh, Senator Hagel and other members of the Subcommittee, my name is Rahim Bariek, and I run Bariek Money Transfer, business in Northern Virginia. I was born in Kabul, Afghanistan and lived there until 1986. I moved to Pakistan and then the United States. My father sponsored me to come to the United States in 1989, and I became a U.S. citizen in September, 1994.
In 1997, I wanted to send money to my father-in-law in Pakistan. I went to my local branch of Chevy Chase Bank to wire the money. The bank told me that there was no way that they could guarantee a money transfer to Pakistan, because there is a great deal of corruption in the formal banking system in Pakistan and money often disappears. I tried to send a money order, but it was stolen from the mail. The only way that I could get the money to my father-in-law in Pakistan was through a hawala. It was safe, faster and cost less.
That same year , my brother-in-law invited us to his wedding in Peshawar, Pakistan. I met with my cousins who own a money exchange business and hawala, Insaf Exchange Ltd. Insaf is in the choke yadgar - a large market where all forms of currency are exchanged. Most Afghan refugees in Pakistan use hawala, because they can not get the money through banks or the mail.
My cousin asked me if I would like to go into the hawala business with him. My experience trying to send money through Chevy Chase Bank illustrated that there was a great need for hawala to exist. I agreed to work with him as a money transfer broker.
As a second job, I now run Bariek Money Transfer in my community in Northern Virginia. I have between 200 and 300 customers, who generally send money to Pakistan once a month. Many Afghan families moved to Pakistan with the understanding that they would receive funds from their families in places like the United States, Canada, Australia and England. Many of my customers make regular monthly deposits with me, by mailing me personal checks or leaving them at the local Afghan stores. They send anywhere between $20 to $400 to their families in Pakistan to help them pay rent and buy food and other things that they need. There are very few jobs in Pakistan, and many people are without work and a source of income. Without the money families send from the U.S. and other countries, many of the families in Pakistan would not be able to pay rent or afford food and other basic needs. Families also send larger sums of money -- between $1,000 and $5,000 -- for weddings, when someone passes away and other big events. For all of these reasons, I consider my job very important and humanitarian in nature.
Let me emphasize -- I know all of my customers, and I would never send money for a family that I do not know.
This is how my business works. One of my customers comes to me with $300 and asks to send it to his brother in Pakistan. Charging about a 5% commission, I take the money and give my customer a transfer/code number which they give to their family in Pakistan. They will need that transfer/code number and identification to get the money from Insaf Exchange. The family member in Pakistan must also sign a form to show that they received the money. I call and fax Insaf Exchange with the name of the person who will get the money and the transfer/code number. Within 24 hours, the money is guaranteed safe in the hands of my customers family in Pakistan. That is how I do hawala. Other hawala brokers may operate differently.
In order to balance our accounts, I pay some of the bills Insaf Exchange owes to other businesses not located in Pakistan. The money I receive in the United States never goes directly to Pakistan. But, it does get to the families in Pakistan that need it.
Hawala is very important to families in my community. Without hawala, people would never be able to send money to their families abroad. We provide a very legitimate service. Unfortunately, as we saw last week, some hawala are used for illegal activity or to move terrorist funds. The informal and paperless nature of hawala makes it easy to take advantage of, but the vast majority of hawala are legitimate. As I said earlier, I would never send money for a family that I did not personally know.
In Afghan culture, the hawala dar is an honest person. People trust him, and he has a good reputation and credit with people. For that reason, I strongly commend you on your efforts, Senator Bayh. I pay taxes on my hawala business, and I comply with the law. I am happy to comply with the new federal law, which you wrote, and to register and to file suspicious activity reports. I believe that all legitimate hawala will be happy to comply. It is upsetting to us that there are hawala used for illegal activity. They give all hawala a bad name.
Chairman Bayh and other distinguished Senators, I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you today. The Afghan people love the United States. The United States helped the Afghan people during the war with the Russian. America also accepted many refugees from Afghanistan and continues to help the Afghan people in Pakistan. I am very proud to be a citizen of the United States.
Right now, the Afghan people do not like the Taliban, Pakistan and the Arab people who are using Afghanistan for terrorism. Afghan people support America's fight to rid the world and Afghanistan of terrorism.
Four months ago in France, the great Afghan Commandant Mousaud announced on television that he would fight against terrorism in Afghanistan. He did not want Afghanistan to be used by terrorists any longer. Soon after his statement, he was killed by Arab terrorists. Commandant Mousaud was a hero to the people of Afghanistan.
That completes my testimony before you today about the important work that I do for my community and refugees from Afghanistan. I will be happy to answer any questions that you may have. Thank you so much.
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