26 nations vow to curb cross-border terror funding

Indonesia Coordinating Minister for Legal, Politics and Security Affairs Wiranto speaks during a conference on counter-terrorism in Nusa Dua on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on Aug 10.
Indonesia Coordinating Minister for Legal, Politics and Security Affairs Wiranto speaks during a conference on counter-terrorism in Nusa Dua on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on Aug 10. PHOTO: AFP

Delegates from 26 nations have pledged to increase the sharing of information in a bid to curb the flow of financing for terrorism.

"Terrorism will not thrive without funding and financial support," Indonesia's Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs, Mr Wiranto, said in a speech at the conference.

Increased efforts to counter terrorism financing come as security officials worldwide face ever-changing ways of funding terrorism, while the threat of bloody attacks remains.

"There is no regulator... so it is very difficult for us to know where the money comes from," Indonesia's Financial Transactions and Analysis Centre chief Muhammad Yusuf told reporters in Bali.

The delegates also agreed to conduct an in-depth study of the movement of cash across borders to improve efforts to disrupt it.

The commitments were put down in detail in the three-page Nusa Dua Statement, issued at the end of the four-day counter-terrorism financing conference here in Bali yesterday.

The conference was held at the same time as another forum focused on ways to improve cross-border monitoring and the sharing of views and experiences on combating radicalisation.

The Nusa Dua Statement says the participating states, which include Singapore, the Philippines and Thailand, will "establish a model to enable information on persons of interest and their financial activity to be shared in near 'real time' between participants".

Overseas fund transfers into Indonesia in 2014 and last year that were allegedly linked to terrorism amounted to well over 10 billion rupiah (S$1.02 million). About 6 billion rupiah of that came from Australia through terror supporters operating under the guise of charities, according to PPATK, Indonesia's anti-money-laundering agency.

The funds were 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.

A committee will also be set up to address the problem of so-called "lone wolves" who do not reach out to terror groups for funding, but pay for their attacks themselves. The assessment of higher-risk non-profit organisations will be conducted by each nation to disrupt the activities of risky groups.

The counter-terrorism conference was attended by 240 security officials, experts and professionals from around the world. Four working groups focused on: A regional risk assessment of terrorism financing; financial intelligence information exchange; regional educational tools on terrorism financing; and information technology expertise. The Nusa Dua Statement was based on reports from these groups.

The other conference, the International Meeting on Countering Cross-Border Movement of Terrorism, which was held on Wednesday, produced a statement vowing to strengthen law enforcement and cooperate in managing borders to counter terrorism.

This week's counter-terrorism financing conference in Bali is a follow-up to the inaugural Counter-Terrorism Funding Summit held in Sydney last year. The annual events are co-organised by PPATK and the Australian Financial Intelligence Agency.

Fund transfers have been instrumental in financing the trips of Indonesians going to Syria to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and many have not been detected.

In Brunei, the authorities are investigating a person found making fund transfers to a "certain group" in Syria, Mr Hamdan Abu Bakar, Brunei's director of its internal security department, said at the conference.

Some overseas funds were detected only after they were invested in businesses in Indonesia, according to PPATK. The militant network approached local entrepreneurs, became their partner to help grow their businesses and used the profits to finance terrorism.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 12, 2016, with the headline '26 nations vow to curb cross-border terror funding'. Print Edition | Subscribe