A travel agency was created on Bintan Island, Indonesia as a cover for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to facilitate the safe passage of other terrorists. The agency was created by Indonesia militant suspect Gigih Rahmat Dewe with an initial seed money of 27 million rupiah (S$2,800) from his handler, Bahrun Naim, who is an ISIS operative in Syria known to be involved in several terror plots in Indonesia.
Gigih and Bahrun discussed that this arrangement could provide a legitimate cover for money laundering and could also generate revenue for their cause. However, their plans are foiled when Gigih and his men were nabbed by the Indonesian counter-terrorism police Detachment 88 after plans on firing a rocket towards Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands were discovered. They have since been charged with harbouring militants and providing funds for terrorist activities.
All have pleaded not guilty.
Harder to track terrorists
Terrorists are using legitimate businesses which in turn makes them harder to detect as compared to money launderers. Unlike money launderers, funds need not be significant enough to promote their cause. History has shown that the direct costs of mounting attacks are lower than the damage they yield. Therefore, it is imperative that Financial Institutions have controls in place for such detection that runs in tandem with their controls in anti-money laundering. However, terrorists have been known to operate outside of the locally regulated financial institutions, by using Bitcoins and encrypted messaging apps to advance their cause, making it harder for authorities to clamp down on terrorism financing.
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) identifies four key areas to further strengthen counter-terrorism financing efforts:
- Action to address jurisdictional issues including safe havens and failed states,
- Outreach to the private sector to ensure the availability of information (in the form of Suspicious Transactions Reports) to detect terrorist financing,
- Building a better understanding across public and private sectors, and
- Enhancing financial intelligence.