KUALA LUMPUR: In view of fast-changing technology, experts say it is imperative to combat terrorism financing more efficiently via the latest methodology and solid collaboration globally.
Experts on counter-terrorism financing believe multi-level players need to come together to identify terrorism financing and its instruments.
They believe that multi-level mechanisms such as the public sector, private sector and banks should maximise the role of technology and innovation to combat terrorism financing.
Tom Keatinge, director of the UK-based Centre for Financial Crime and Security Studies at the Royal United Service Institute, said industry players should at least be one step ahead of the terrorists and militants by collaborating and sharing knowledge on terrorism financing.
“My concern is that the approach of global terrorist financing was created after the 9/11 tragedy, 16 years ago.
“So, are we creating a response that matches the threat today?
“As we know, today, we have Abu Sayyaf, Islamic State, lone ‘actors’ and attackers in London, Paris and Brussels, and so on.
“So, we have a much more complex landscape that we need to address when we think about terrorist financing,” he said.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Counter-Terrorism Financing Summit held at Bank Negara Malaysia today, Keatinge said some of the multi-level players, including policymakers, were still stuck with one foot in the past.
He believed the solutions after the 9/11 incident were not necessarily the right solutions for today’s terrorism financing issues.
For one, there is a need to improve the response system among the financial intelligence units (FIU) globally, he said.
“One of the solutions is that the public and private sectors should be working together, increasing their cooperation and collaboration.
“The private sector has tonnes of data.
“So, if the government can help the private sector, illuminate that data, find ways of making the private sector make use of the data. Then, we can start to create a more effective system.
“That requires people to work together, and for the government and private sector to trust each other.
“That’s not easy and requires people to take risks, try something new,” said Keatinge.
He said key players and decision-makers must build bridges between the government and private sector to leverage public-private partnerships.
Sharing similar views, John Moss, national manager of intelligence of the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, said the main constraint was the ability to cross-reference.
“And understand who holds the dots and who has the links between the dots … often you do not know who possesses the information. That’s from an operational perspective.”
He said in Australia, most foreign terrorists would still use legitimate traditional banking platforms to finance themselves.
“That includes cashing credit cards, selling personal items and transferring it to another account for terrorism financing. So, it’s a challenge for us, banks, and law enforcement to filter out the suspicious and risky funds.”
Meanwhile, Grawas Sugiharto, from the Directorate of Cyber Crime, Crime Investigation Department, Indonesian National Police, who specialises in Dark Web investigations, said it was important for the authorities to analyse the pattern as some militants would use different identities and locations to transfer funds.
“It’s a global problem. The main challenge is that it takes a long time to investigate. You can’t do it in one or two weeks. It takes months, even years to catch the suspect,” he said, adding that his unit had received prior training from Interpol.
Another expert, Western Union (Philippines) anti-money laundering compliance director for Southeast Asia, Maureen Gonzalez, said the fact that the money remittance service had over 500,000 locations globally, made it a complex business.
“Our internal FIU team used a lot of external and internal sources to come up with an analysis to help us determine suspicious activities,” she said, suggesting that global cooperation was needed to combat terrorism financing.
Bank Negara Malaysia is hosting the third Counter-Terrorism Financing Summit, in partnership with Australia and Indonesia’s financial intelligence agencies.
The four-day summit, which started yesterday, will see Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi deliver his keynote address tomorrow.
The summit gathers more than 350 specialists and professionals from international organisations to share their insight on the latest terrorism financing issues and developments.