Paris attacks: France targets prepaid debit cards in fight against terror finance

PARIS (AFP) - France, announcing fresh moves against terrorist financing, said on Monday (Nov 23) it would target prepaid debit cards which it said were used in the recent Paris attacks.

"We will regulate more strictly the use of prepaid cards which were used in the Nov 13 attacks, in order to make it harder to remain anonymous," Finance Minister Michel Sapin told a news conference.

Currently, prepaid credit cards can be recharged without identity checks so long as they don't exceed 2,500 euros (S$3,772) over one year.

Details of stricter debit card rules, which are part of a wider set of measures to combat the financing of terror, are to be given in early 2016, the finance ministry said.

"There are new means of payment which have been created which should be on our radar," said Bruno Dalles, head of the ministry's Tracfin financing intelligence unit.

"I am thinking particularly of prepaid cards, especially if they are delivered in nearby foreign countries and used in France, for example to book hotel rooms," he told the news conference.

Among other measures, finance ministry officials are to be given easier access to information about suspects on police watchlists, allowing them to probe their finances, Sapin said.

France is to also to make it easier to freeze a wide range of assets of individuals suspected of committing, or planning to commit, acts of terror, not just their bank accounts, as is the case now.

Sapin also said he would ask EU members to accelerate implementing the bloc's latest anti-money laundering measures.

"We have received messages of sympathy and support from our (foreign) colleagues," Sapin said, but now "we must go beyond emotion and take action".

Sapin also asked the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an international body fighting money-laundering and terrorist financing, to become "more subtle" when identifying uncooperative states.

For now, the FATF's black list only contains two countries, Iran and North Korea, he noted.

France will also be asking for easier EU access to SWIFT, the transit system for 90 per cent of international bank transfers, Sapin said.

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