Australia, Indonesia join hands to stem terror funds

Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs Wiranto (right) and Australian Attorney General Senator George Brandis pose for a photo during a press conference in Jakarta, Indonesia on Feb 2, 2017.
Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs Wiranto (right) and Australian Attorney General Senator George Brandis pose for a photo during a press conference in Jakarta, Indonesia on Feb 2, 2017.PHOTO: EPA

Both countries to exchange intelligence as funds moved into Indonesia help finance fighters' trips to Syria

Indonesia and Australia have pledged to work together to "choke off" funding for terrorist activities, after senior security officials from both countries met in Jakarta yesterday.

"We had discussed at today's meeting how we can further our efforts to curb such flows of funds," said Indonesian Chief Security Minister Wiranto at a press conference after the 3rd Indonesia-Australia Ministerial Council Meeting on Law and Security.

Mr Wiranto, who goes by one name, said security officials from both countries agreed that terrorism cannot thrive without financial support.

"Our two countries will continue to develop a common understanding on how to locate sources of these terrorist funding," he added.

"We have reached agreements on this front, and with current technology, both countries have also successfully managed to block numerous terrorist funding (sources)."

Australia's Attorney-General George Brandis agreed, saying that the issue was the subject of close collaboration between the two countries.

FOLLOW THE MONEY

We know one of the most effective ways to combat the scourge of terrorism is to attack the funding. One of the most important items on the agenda of this council today is the ongoing work between agencies and officials in working together to choke off the flow of funding of terrorist organisations.

AUSTRALIA'S ATTORNEY-GENERAL GEORGE BRANDIS

"We know one of the most effective ways to combat the scourge of terrorism is to attack the funding," said Mr Brandis.

"One of the most important items on the agenda of this council today is the ongoing work between agencies and officials in working together to choke off the flow of funding of terrorist organisations."

Mr Wiranto and Mr Brandis were part of the high-powered meeting in Jakarta, where security officials met to discuss issues including counter-terrorism, cybercrime, illegal immigration and maritime security.

Fund transfers have been instrumental in financing the trips of Indonesians going to Syria to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terror group, and many such transfers have not been detected, local authorities reported recently.

Some overseas funds were detected only after they were invested in businesses in Indonesia, according to PPATK, Indonesia's anti-money laundering agency.

The militant network approached local entrepreneurs, helped to grow their businesses and used the profits to finance terrorism.

In 2014 and 2015, overseas fund transfers into Indonesia, which were allegedly linked to terrorism, amounted to more than 10 billion rupiah (S$1 million).

 

About six billion rupiah came from Australia through terror supporters operating under the guise of charities, according to PPATK.

Asked how a terrorist money trail between Australia and Indonesia was detected recently, Mr Wiranto said: "The terrorism funding may flow from anywhere, so we don't want to be trapped in a blame game, making accusations about where the funds came from."

He added that both countries must have a common understanding about the importance of working together to combat these flows of funds.

On Wednesday, PPATK and the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centreinked a pact to work together on the prevention of money laundering and terrorism funding.

The agreement will cover the exchange of intelligence between the two nations.

Yesterday's meeting also aimed to strengthen cooperation in the law sector, where both countries agree to look into cooperation among law enforcement personnel.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 03, 2017, with the headline 'Australia, Indonesia join hands to stem terror funds'. Print Edition | Subscribe