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What is Terrorist Financing?

by | Feb 4, 2021 | Financial Crime Academy, Terrorist Financing (TF)

Terrorists and terror organizations have long threatened our lives. If we think about it, we probably all have some own experience with this. Be it that we witnessed an act of terrorism ourselves or that we know someone that did. Terrorists and terror organizations threaten the security, infrastructure, citizens and communities worldwide. It is estimated that terrorists kill an average of 21,000 people worldwide each year. Having said this, terrorism tends to be very geographically-focused: 95% of deaths in 2017 occurred in the Middle East, Africa or South Asia.

There is a song called “Money makes the world go around” and this is true also for terrorists and terror organizations. Money is the lifeblood of terrorism. Terrorist organizations require significant funding, both for the actual undertaking of terrorist acts, but also for other issues. In particular to maintain the functioning of the organisation, to provide for its basic technical necessities, as well as to cover costs related to the spreading of their ideologies.

Financing of the Biggest Terror Organizations

The Forbes Magazine has compiled a list with the Richest Terror Organizations in the World. They estimate the total annual income of the ten biggest terror organizations at an unthinkable amount of almost 4 billion US-Dollar. At the top of that list is the Hizbollah organisation with 1.1 billion US-Dollar alone.

The question that you might ask is: How can it be that these terrorist organizations can receive so much money? This is especially in the light of the global fight against terrorism, global economic sanctions, and designated lists for terrorist organizations.

How can this be? Well, the answer is terrorist financing.

Before we look at a definition of terrorist financing, let’s consider for a brief moment that the forms of terrorism finance can differ a lot. This is mainly related to the circumstance that acts of terrorism can take place in many different forms ranging from isolated acts to planned activities of organized groups.

Terrorist Financing Definition

The FATF provides a definition of this and defines terrorist financing quite simply as the financing of terrorist acts, terrorists, and terrorist organizations. But terrorist financing is more than just providing the money to them. Terrorist financing can also involve the facilitation of terrorist acts using other assets or stores of value such as oil and natural resources, property, legal documents, financial instruments, and others.

State-sponsored Terrorism

Terrorist financing can also be brought in connection with the so-called state-sponsored terrorism. State-sponsored terrorism is government support of violent non-state actors engaged in terrorism. This can include the provision of funds, but also the provision of weapons, equipment, and other resources.

In turn, combating and disrupting terrorist financing creates a hostile environment for terrorism. A lack of money and economic resources significantly limits the capability of terrorists and terrorist groups to prepare or carry out attacks.

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