This is the first Blog of Nick Kochan. It comes on a day when some Islamic terrorists have driven a van into numerous people in Barcelona. Terrorist financing will be a recurrent theme of this Blog. But the limitation of this form of scrutiny must be understood. The financing of this form of ad hoc terror is de minimis, that is so say so trifling that it would be most surprising if a fund movement identification system applied by banks were to pick up the transaction that enabled the terrorists to acquire the vehicle. the size of the transaction is not the only barrier to its discovery; terrorists are well aware of the banks’ tracking systems and now routinely use cash, much like petty criminals.
This cynicism should not be regarded as a plea for banks to abandon Counter-Terrorist Finance systems, but rather to encourage police and terrorist units to raise their efforts in scrutinising the identities of individuals, better to understand suspicious behaviour and unusual patterns of activity.
Earlier I observed that terrorists use cash in the manner of the petty criminal. In fact, the analysis of terrorists’ records frequently reveals some record of a criminal past, often in petty fraud, drugs dealing, even money laundering. When a terrorist is found with a history of criminal activity, leads will be provided to possible co-conspirators in the terrorist group, either as funders or as quarter-masters, people who mind a terrorist while he is ‘dormant’ and before he prepares the terror attack.
Money remains a key concern for the terrorist group. It is not surprising that the Islamic State group resorts to one of the cheapest forms of weapon, the car, when its revenue source — namely the forced tax payers in Syria and Iraq– are now being squeezed out of existence. The authorities need increasingly to go for the man rather than his funds, and for his groups, his means of communication and his ideology rather than his bank account. Unlike the oilfields that once funded the group, this is likely to be dry.