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Global experts attend Paris conference to combat terrorist financing

Spencer Platt/Getty Images North America/AFP | The crashed vehicle used in what is being described as a terrorist attack sits in lower Manhattan the morning after the event on November 1, 2017 in New York City.

Ministers from 80 countries and nearly 500 experts gathered in Paris on Wednesday and Thursday for a conference on combating the financing of terror groups such as Islamic State and al-Qaeda, French officials said.


Attacks have become increasingly low-cost since the 9/11 atrocities in the United States in 2001, particularly in recent years as followers of the Islamic State group have used vehicles and guns as their main weapon of choice.

But French authorities remain concerned about a huge war-chest amassed by IS group between 2014 and 2016 when it ruled over large swathes of oil-rich territory in Iraq and Syria.

‘The money trail has led us to flush out terrorists,’ says Paris Public Prosecutor François Molins

A French presidential official briefing journalists on Tuesday said that IS group income was estimated at about one billion dollars (820 million euros) a year.

“It [the war chest] has been moved since, at least in part. It’s probably somewhere,” the official said on condition of anonymity. “These groups are very skilful in using sophisticated techniques to move financial resources around.”

“Islamic State group financed itself by controlling a territory. We know that it plundered Mosul’s gold, that it made withdrawals from all local economic activities: cotton, oil, cultural goods,” Bruno Dalles, the head of Tracfin (a section of the French finance ministry concerned with combatting illegal financial operations, money laundering and terrorism financing) told French daily Le Parisien on Wednesday.

“But since its military defeats, [IS group] has gone back underground and must now go back to its external sources of microfinancing. It uses fund collectors, a kind of clandestine bank, often based in Turkey or Lebanon, which take a small percentage along the way. Today, the issue is knowing where its next collectors will be,” Dalles said.

Paris Public Prosecutor François Molins, meanwhile, told the same newspaper that “one must keep in mind that an attack is not very expensive to organise.” Citing attacks that claimed 147 lives in Paris and its suburbs in 2015, Molins said, “It is estimated that the terrorists needed 25,000 euros for the January 2015 attacks and 80,000 for the ones on 13 November.”

The idea of the two-day conference, which will close with a speech by French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday afternoon, is to share expertise and good practice that can be implemented internationally.

The Islamic State group faces imminent defeat on the battlefield in Syria where the last pockets of its fighters are holding out, but experts warn that its ideology will live on.

Some terror experts, including Peter Neumann from King’s College in London, have argued recently that since 2001, the fight against the financing of terror groups has been ineffective.

In a report last year entitled, “Don’t follow the money”, he argued that low-cost terror attacks were easy to mount and showed how jihadist groups could transfer money easily without using the international banking system.

On Thursday, Neumann is due to address the conference taking place at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Paris.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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