'Overseas funds' fuelling terrorism in Indonesia

A resident painting over an ISIS flag in Solo, Central Java.
A resident painting over an ISIS flag in Solo, Central Java.PHOTO: TEMPO

Money from Australia, Mid-East used to aid paramilitary training and buy arms: Anti-money-laundering agency

Overseas fund transfers into Indonesia allegedly linked to terrorism last year and this year amounted to well over 10 billion rupiah (S$1 million), of which about six billion rupiah was from Australia, said Mr Agus Santoso, deputy head of PPATK, which is Indonesia's anti-money-laundering agency.

The money was used to help finance the living costs of widows and families of slain terrorists, buy weapons from the southern Philippines, fund paramilitary training, and promote violent ideology by way of gatherings and discussions.

"Many to a few, a few to a few, and a few to many," Mr Agus said, referring to the few individuals, including a man initialled L, who collected the funds from many individuals in Australia, and then transferred the money to a few foundations in Indonesia which, in turn, distributed the money to many individuals.

Good cooperation between PPATK and its Australian counterpart, Austrac, helped combat terrorist financing, said Mr Agus, who nevertheless said that other countries, including those in the Middle East, were also sources of funds for Indonesian militants.

The total number of money transfers suspected for terrorism-related purposes had been 13 since last year, and PPATK had reported them to Indonesian anti-terror Detachment 88 for follow-up.

"What PPATK is doing is to follow the money, helping Detachment 88 to map out who in what networks," Mr Agus told The Straits Times after the agency held a year-end press conference in its office in Jakarta yesterday.

Some overseas funds were detected only after they were invested in businesses in Indonesia, said Mr Agus said. "They approached local entrepreneurs with existing business, became their partner, managed to grow the business faster and used the profits to finance terrorism," he said.

Fund transfers were also instrumental in financing the trips of Indonesians going to Syria to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), said terrorism analyst Adhe Bahkti.

He said these types of transactions had mostly not been detected by PPATK.

Police spokesman Inspector General Anton Charliyan told a recent media briefing that terrorist Arif Hodayatullah, who was arrested on Dec 23, had received funds from Syria but police had not been able to prove this yet.

Arif was arrested in Bekasi, on the outskirts of Jakarta, with an Uighur national who was ready to be a suicide bomber in an attack planned for this month.

Two bomb-makers in Arif's cell escaped a police raid and are now on the loose with ready-to-use bombs.

Since the middle of this month, police have arrested seven suspects in Java from cells linked to ISIS, and four others from one linked to the Jemaah Islamiah terror network, responsible for several major attacks in Indonesia.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 29, 2015, with the headline ''Overseas funds' fuelling terrorism in Indonesia'. Print Edition | Subscribe