An informal Security Council meeting heard on Thursday that many countries are failing to take action to stop the financing of terrorists and aren’t responding to the real threats their nations face.
John Carlson of the Financial Action Task Force, which sets standards and promotes implementation of measures to combat terrorist financing, said its assessment shows that “while many countries have basic laws in place, they’re not using them effectively as yet.”
“More than half of the countries, for example, are not taking effective action to prosecute terrorist financing or on (imposing) targeted financial sanctions,” he said.
Tom Keatinge, who heads the London-based Royal United Services Institute for Defense and Security Studies’ Center for Financial Crime, said that according to the Task Force’s data, “approximately 60 percent of the near 70 countries evaluated to date require major or fundamental improvements.”
“A two-thirds failure rate after close to 20 years of focus” on combatting terrorist financing “hardly represents a success, I would suggest.”
Keatinge said his center’s research shows that countries need to assess terrorist threats and then determine how to respond.
For example, in the case of a multinational terrorist threat that moves money across borders using front companies and the formal banking system, he said “perhaps targeted financial sanctions are a valuable tool.” In the case of a group controlling territory as the Islamic State extremists did in Syria and Iraq, “dropping bombs might be best,” he said.
Keating stressed the importance of intelligence sharing and said combatting terrorist financing “will remain a priority for the foreseeable future and rightly so.”
“We will need to address cryptocurrencies, the use of social media for crowd funding, illicit trade, the rise of extreme right-wing groups, activity on the dark web and new payment methods,” he said.
Carlson said the Financial Action Task Force is “moving swiftly to ensure that virtual assets and cryptocurrencies and their service providers are properly regulated” under its standards.
Remy Heitz, the public prosecutor of Paris who is charged with investigating terrorist acts, described how financial data like loans and plane tickets can not only identify individuals but lead to terrorist acts that are still in preparation.
He recalled a case four years ago where his office identified several hundred people collecting funds in countries around the Iraq and Syria area who were working for the Islamic State extremist group or al-Qaida. In France, he said, several hundred senders who transferred over $1 million overall were identified, which enabled police “to identify jihadists and trace their movements.”
“So this investigating showed that by following the money we were following the terrorists,” Heitz said.
“The threat remains over the long-term,” he stressed, “and we must use every tool available in order to strengthen our response – and this begins with mobilising our action against financing terrorism.”