Terror financing is in fact one of the most important factors in combating terrorism. The adoption of the International Convention for Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism in Dec 1999 had prepared a groundwork on which countries could formulate laws to cut off the terrorist organisations from their sources of sustenance.
The experiences over the last decade, particularly after 9/11, suggest that there is need for Bangladesh to change its tack in respect of countering terror financing. Although we have in place a money-laundering law, and the finance minister is on record saying recently that it would be amended soon, it seems that the focus still is only on the ways and means to prevent money going out of the country or to repatriate money illegally siphoned out. The anti-terror act should also be recast in the light of recent developments both within and outside our borders.
It may be discomfiting but true that Bangladesh is a conduit for movement of illegal weapons and drugs bound for the West, and with the movement of these there is always the prospect of transshipment of bulk cash through couriers. Thus, the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), to amend the current money laundering laws that would help prevent illegal transactions on drugs, illegal weapons and terror finance, are worth considering.
It must be understood that money laundering is not synonymous to terror financing, but nonetheless, the terrorist groups are beneficiaries of incomes that are generated in part from illegal dealings in drugs and small arms; and in fact, as far as Bangladesh is concerned and as the FATF study indicates, the majority of illegal money stems from drugs and human trafficking as well as corruption. And there is a strong nexus between illegal drugs and arms dealers and terrorist groups who help to prop up each other. But money laundered in and out of the country, outside these three sources, are also being used to finance terror groups, as our experience shows. And although most of the radical groups in Bangladesh are homegrown and need only microfinance to exist, there are several proscribed terrorist groups in Bangladesh with international linkages, and at least one of these has admitted to being recipient of foreign finance.
In the overall context of countering terrorism, money laundering and terror finance must be kept in our purview with equal importance. In this regard, side by side with appropriate laws we also must build up capacity, to identify money laundering, to maintain oversight on, among other things, money that come in the name of charities but are diverted to the terror groups, and to enhance capability that would help both disrupt the chain and prosecute the offenders.