How the AML/CFT Fights Proliferation to Terrorism

According to international regulatory frameworks on AML, it has been defined over time that the crime of money laundering is that particular conduct which by means of the three steps: Placement, Layering, and Integration, a criminal (organization) conceals the illicit origin of an asset or a certain amount of money. One of the consequences of ‘cleaning’ by means of ‘recycling’ these sums, which are the subject of criminal activity. In fact, money laundering links several sectors or legal and commercial institutions that it places under the magnifying glass, e.g., financial crimes (Tax crimes), computer crimes, etc…

But this category, which is increasingly growing, also includes proceeds from the sale and purchase of weapons of mass proliferation for terrorist purposes (PT) in international smuggling markets. This conduct, the use of weapons for illicit purposes, is closely linked to the criminal conduct of money laundering and terrorist financing, where money is used to finance terrorist activities by purchasing weapons, large or small. The anti-money laundering function takes on a great role, of a preventive and mitigating nature to this great risk, in particular thanks to the presence and implementation of specific regulatory dictates such as the legislative support of the FATF-FAT Guidelines, measures that were in fact updated in October 2020 by providing for greater restrictions and AML checks on the suitability of commercial contractors. The fight against PT, also takes place through the involvement of institutions and the active collaboration of obliged parties, thus allowing strong transparency to the many activities of illicit use of cash and the various payment instruments, identifying the objective and subjective profile underlying the operation, the presence of anomalies and inconsistencies that may lead to suspect, in the financial flows, conduct with criminal or terrorist purposes.


The Evolution of the CFT/PT

On the current world stage, where political crises and coups d’état are leading states to show the rest of the world the power of their weapons by intimidating and threatening the rest of the world with even high-powered weapons, these phenomena are now the order of the day: for example, the recent events concerning the test-firing of guided missiles by North Korea in recent months have caused great concern throughout the international community. The greatest concern, repeatedly pointed out by the UN, is the lack of or inadequate monitoring by multinational arms manufacturers and the failure or omission of vigilance by some states. In fact, the UN has found through some of its reports and investigations, that the danger is when organizations and States (in particular, those on the anti-terrorism lists) or when they are under specific bans, very easily acquire armaments for illicit purposes, the use of which is not in line with what is defined by specific international conventions or treaties on defense and national security. In fact, in many cases, the UN itself has found that during the negotiation phase for the purchase of arms by a State and between private individuals, it has been discovered that part of what was purchased was not destined entirely to the requesting State because the latter (the State) sent a partial quantity, in a fictitious way, to subjects outside of the negotiations; this is because there were underlying agreements between the parties.

The risk of terrorism is evolving, not because the intentions and aims of the perpetrators are changing, but because new weapons are entering the world scene; it is enough to think of the evolution of remote control Predator war drones, the use of unmanned tanks, the nuclear race or the research and development of new long-range intercontinental surface-to-air missiles. But even more simply, there remains the worrying factor of the use of firearms, grenades, and rocket launchers that could (be) deliberately found in the wrong hands.

In order to wage war and for it to be successful, money is needed before weapons to finance the activity, money is needed to pay people, but there must also be ideas to determine the will and conduct. The expert analysts know and study continually the evolution of the international conduct of terrorism and the particular threats which can arise in connection with this activity, both on the objective and subjective side, analyzing all those factors or indexes of anomalies that can induce a subject or a particular organization to commit an act of terrorism. The main manuals on the subject indicate that there are two macro-categories of terrorism: internal terrorism, originating from situations of instability within a State, e.g., anarchic organizations of a political-social stamp which carry out acts of rebellion enacted with violence or attacks against State institutions, and then there is external terrorism. In fact, this other dynamic pursues the same ends and, at times, the same means to cause harm to a State, what is substantially different is that in the first typology, it figures within a nation, State, who commit the fact, therefore, hypothetically knowable and foreseeable, the second, instead, is extraneous, outside of the territorial and cultural context and one discovers who it is only when these subjects directly attack a sensitive target in a given State and moment. Threats expressed in its many forms and types, having as their main purpose the creation of social disorder and on several occasions even at the cost of their own lives and those of others.

Over time, States have equipped themselves with special powers to cope with and prevent the occurrence of these events, providing high levels of security and control for national defense by means of Agencies, special police departments, political and governmental institutions. But the fight against terrorism, as has been demonstrated many times, is not fought only through intelligence activities or operational functions aimed at identifying a subjective threat, but also in the monitoring of illicit financial flows, which, with greater dominance, try in every way to replace the existing lawful channels with force and aggression. One thinks of the international fraudulent money transfer technique, called HAWALA, which is of a confessional nature and is very widespread and used in Africa and the Middle East to transfer money to America and Europe. But if this were not enough, the evolution of techniques to the monitoring of illicit flows and the contrast of criminal activity has become more operative also in the digital sectors, such as the existence of web pages of an e-commerce nature present in the Dark Web, for the purchase and sale of firearms.


The Worrying Figure of Arms Smuggling in Africa

Last year’s research by GRIP (Groupe de Recherche et d’Information sur la Paix et la Sécurité), states that the African continent, in particular the area of North Africa and the Sahel, shows worrying data concerning the presence of a considerable quantity of weapons (Kalashnikov models, artisanal hunting rifles and pistols) amounting to almost 12 million. These weapons are mainly used by local militiamen, as in Bamako (Mali) or Accra (Ghana), and are mainly used for assaults, kidnappings, and thefts. Moreover, the document reports how important the monitoring and census of all these weapons is; in fact, in several States, the research underlined how the absence of specific declaratory documentation on carrying weapons could lead to a legislative and administrative gap, causing people to use weapons.


April 2021, published on Sanctions Scanner

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