An exclusive interview with Kamil Bahbouh, whose name appeared in cases of lost money for ammunition for Ukraine or the forgotten million of Prime Minister Petr Fiala. He works at Podnikatelská družstevná zna, among other things, he is also the president of the Czech-Cape Verdean Chamber of Commerce. According to Bahbouh, the pawnshop was a victim of fraud just like Ukraine. However, the fraudsters did not complete the event. And thanks to the pawnshop, half of the funds that will be returned to Ukraine were saved.
The cash payment limit is subject to the euro, deposits are not
A few facts to begin with. Did you know that the maximum cash payment limit is CZK 270,000? But the value keeps changing because it is calculated from the euro. However, deposits and withdrawals in the bank do not have limits. Kamil Bahbouh also knows his stuff. “My position, which I have held so far, is intended for contact with clients. Cashier services are part of the interaction with them,” explains that the minimum membership deposit associated with a pawnshop account is 30,000 crowns. Anyone with an account can participate in the general meeting.
Inns or so-called campelycks are a continuation of the period of the First Republic. “The difference is that the bank is owned by shareholders and their clients have accounts in it. You don’t have to have an account there, but you can own it. Anyone who is a member of a credit union also has an account there. There is no such thing as someone having an account and not being a cooperative member at the same time,” explains Bahbouh’s operation of the pawn shop.
Fraud awareness of Ukraine through the eyes of a pawnbroker
“The situation has several dimensions. Only a piece concerns us. Some money flowed through us and part of it – provided all the conditions were met – was collected by the gunsmiths in cash. There was no reason to suspect them until the last moment. He was a good trickster, but we were always on the same side as Ukraine. We managed to stop it in time. We saved at least half of the money for the Ukrainians and ensured the possibility for them to get back to them. From the moment we found out that there were reasonable doubts about the purity and good intentions of the gunsmith, we took extraordinary steps and reported to all parties that to this day the money is blocked, for example in the Bosnian court,” explains the Bahbouh case.
The money for Ukrainian ammunition also went through the Enterprise Credit Union and subsequently disappeared. ,,The money was taken by the owner of the account to which it belonged. He had the right to choose them, he announced it in advance and justified it. The justification has two positions. One is that war is more dynamic than the system’s ability to handle some things administratively,’‘ says Bahbouh.
“The banking market is not able to provide arms companies with classic products, such as guarantees and similar superstructures, which will allow the client who needs to show his credibility and his solvency to the market, to be able to show it in a different way than he is used to now war. Quite naturally, rather than bringing ready money and putting it in a pledge or in a notary’s custody or in some other way to show that he has the money and that no one will touch it,” Bahbouh explains.
“If the goods are produced and invoiced, the payment is not made from the deposited money and is made cashless by a normal transfer. The payment releases the collateral and the owner can withdraw it and deposit it in the bank. In the limiting case, he can use them for payment, but he must be the one who took them from the source account and deposited them. Then he picks them up and puts them straight into the manufacturer’s bank. There is always at least one entity with a banking license on the contact of two people,” explains Bahbouh’s procedures, stating that this is both legal and standard practice.
Everyone wants to make a quick buck on guns
During the war, there is a great hunt for ammunition and weapons. ,,When there are few weapons, there is also a great demand and there are many people who try to make money from it. In order to get to the front of the queue, they have to show tremendous solvency,” says Bahbouh.
According to Bahbouh, the Balkan arms dealer, who plays a crucial role in this case, was under pressure from Ukraine. She was supposed to pressure him to quickly deliver the weapons and complete the production. Otherwise, he would have to return the funds.
,,In the penalty calculations, which suggestively started from the letters from Ukraine addressed to this armorer, there were quite high penalty rates in the event that they either do not deliver, or do not return the money. Then they would get behind the ears in eye-rolling orders. So the arms manufacturer understandably also wanted to achieve that by proving his solvency he would complete the production of the rockets he was supposed to deliver, or else he would have the money readily available and be able to return it on time, so that he would not be exposed to the risk of being transferred from place to place during those cashless retransactions gets stuck in the banking system and he’s going to be put on hold,” supplies.
Will I take away millions in a bag?
A bag full of money is quite suspicious. ,,Anything can be suspect. When we look at it, even the very existence of money is suspect. Money is printed and in circulation, and cash and non-cash transactions work,” he says.
In order for relations to function and be able to connect with each other, they need an environment determined by law. “In this case, they are banks and credit unions are also included. Banks and pawnshops are exempt from the law that limits cash payments. Whereas if we transfer money here, for example you give me an amount that exceeds the limit for cash payments between two natural persons, then we have already done an illegal thing,” explains with the example of Bahbouh.
If you bring an amount of, for example, 30 million crowns to a bank or a pawnshop, the situation is different. “If I stand in front of you as a cashier of a financial institution, then we made a completely correct transaction, which is common. Where else would the state control what happens on the money market than through regulated entities,” he says.
Everything suspicious is investigated
All transactions in the credit union are subject to a thorough inspection, which is prescribed by law and guidelines originating from regulation. “That is always on the agenda. We need to know the reason and meaning of that transaction,” explains Bahbouh, noting that even if a client is vetted, they must provide financial plans, how they will manage their money, and their history.
“If we are not satisfied with his answers, we will request documentation. Alternatively, we verify whether the documentation is genuine and whether it shows the natural character of the type of business to which it relates,” he adds to the whole process. If the transaction arouses suspicion, the employees of the pawnshop will notify, for example, the Czech National Bank.
The prime minister’s million
According to speculation, Prime Minister Fiala also put a million crowns into the pawn shop. ,,I look at this case with amazement. Every bank has politicians among its clients. The fact that there are a few members from some party somewhere means nothing. I can only base it on the fact that the Prime Minister spoke of himself as a client, so I am not bound by bank secrecy there and I can only confirm what he said, i.e. that he normally sent the money there from another account.” explains Bahbouh, saying that it is not necessary to look for causes where there are none. ,,We are not a financial institution profiled for ODS,” adds to the whole case.
Is the pawn shop connected to the secret services?
Mladá fronta today connects the pawnshop with the secret services, where hundreds of millions have been lost. “I did not find any connection with the secret services. The company CyberG Europe (Cyber Gym), which is supposedly connected to the secret services, is frequented. The state was a potential client there. Then, in a way that is not entirely correct, he resigned,” adds Bahbouh.
“We have disputes with the state for breach of contracts, for example in the case of the Ministry of Defence. We are already in a situation where we are looking for a settlement of damages, so it is clear that these are not fictitious claims. They are based on normal business relations. That’s all,” Bahbouh adds his opinion.
The financial frauds of the 1990s made a mess
The wild 90s gave pawnshops a bad reputation. Because of them, people often lost money because the pawnshops gave bad credit. ,,Pawn shops had a bad reputation in the 1990s. Then there was a dramatic change. The mode of operation has become much stricter,” refutes the assumptions of Bahbouh.
Complete interview in video or podcast
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