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Former ED officer, aide held on graft charges (Relevant for GS Prelims and Mains Paper II)

J.P. Singh, a former Joint Director with the Enforcement Directorate, was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation, along with his former subordinate and two others, for allegedly receiving money from several suspects in two cases of hawala and cricket betting rackets busted by his team about two years ago.

Allegations: Extortion from hawala and betting racket
According to the CBI, he along with the then Enforcement Officer Sanjay Kumar conspired with their contacts to extort money from the suspects in the Surat-based hawala racket and the Rs. 2,000-crore cricket betting racket for not arresting them.

What are Hawala Transactions?
Hawala or Hewala also known as hundi is a popular and informal value transfer system based on the performance and honour of a huge network of money brokers, primarily located in the Middle East, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, and the Indian subcontinent.

How Hawala works?
In the most basic variant of the hawala system, money is transferred via a network of hawala brokers, or hawaladars. It is the transfer of money without actually moving it. In fact, a successful definition of the hawala system that is used is "money transfer without money movement".

Hawala example transaction; see text for an explanation
The figure shows how hawala works: (1) a customer (A, left-hand side) approaches a hawala broker (X) in one city and gives a sum of money (red arrow) that is to be transferred to a recipient (B, right-hand side) in another, usually foreign, city. Along with the money, he usually specifies something like a password that will lead to the money being paid out (blue arrows). (2b)

The hawala broker X calls another hawala broker M in the recipient's city, and informs M about the agreed password, or gives other disposition instructions of the funds. Then, the intended recipient (B), who also has been informed by A about the password (2a), now approaches M and tells him the agreed password (3a). If the password is correct, then M releases the transferred sum to B (3b), usually minus a small commission. X now basically owes M the money that M had paid out to B; thus M has to trust X's promise to settle the debt at a later date.

Features of Hawala System
The unique feature of the system is that no promissory instruments are exchanged between the hawala brokers; the transaction takes place entirely on the honour system. As the system does not depend on the legal enforceability of claims, it can operate even in the absence of a legal and juridical environment. Trust and extensive use of connections, such as family relations and regional affiliations, are the components that distinguish it from other remittance systems.

Informal records are produced of individual transactions, and a running tally of the amount owed by one broker to another is kept. Settlements of debts between hawala brokers can take a variety of forms (such as goods, services, properties, transfers of employees, etc.), and need not take the form of direct cash transactions.

In addition to commissions, hawala brokers often earn their profits through bypassing official exchange rates. Generally, the funds enter the system in the source country's currency and leave the system in the recipient country's currency. As settlements often take place without any foreign exchange transactions, they can be made at other than official exchange rates.

Hawala is attractive to customers because it provides a fast and convenient transfer of funds, usually with a far lower commission than that charged by banks. Its advantages are most pronounced when the receiving country applies unprofitable exchange rate regulations (as has been the case for many typical receiving countries such as Egypt) or when the banking system in the receiving country is less complex (e.g., due to differences in legal environment in places such as Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia). Moreover, in some parts of the world it is the only option for legitimate fund transfers, and has even been used by aid organizations in areas where it is the best-functioning institution.

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