Hawala: The Working Man’s Bitcoin

image0It’s an alternative monetary system that operates largely outside government control, avoids large transaction fees by circumventing banks, and has associations with money laundering and the illegal drug trade.

No, it’s not Bitcoin, the digital currency beloved of libertarians and bankers, cypherpunks and Silicon Valley developers, and the buyers and sellers of illegal drugs on the Silk Road marketplace. It’s hawala, an informal money transfer system popular in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia that dates back to the Middle Ages.