KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia “deserves credit” for its efforts in trying to counter terrorist financing, said a United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) officer.
FBI Terrorist Financing Operations Section chief Dennis M. Lormel said, however, the problem of terrorists using both legal and illegal means to finance their activities was far from being resolved and would become more dispersed globally
Lormel, who was here yesterday to brief Bank Negara and law enforcement agencies on the FBI’s findings and promote awareness of the subject, said that although he didn’t regard the level of terrorist activity to be greater here than anywhere else, he had been “impressed at the level of commitment” of the Malaysian authorities in trying to counter terrorist financing and money laundering.
“They are clearly concerned and are taking positive steps,” he added.
He said the Sept 11 tragedy, which was mobilised with no more than US$600,000 (RM2.3mil), brought to the forefront the need to track, and disrupt the terrorists’ sources of finance.
Describing the total amount involved as “quite considerable”, Lormel said the sources of finance varied and ranged from legal means such as donations to charities and NGOs to illegal funds from drugs and arms trafficking, as well as from other crimes such as credit card fraud.
Lormel said the intense focus of activities in the “war against terrorism” in the US had led to terrorists looking abroad to fund their activities and hence the need for authorities outside the US to be vigilant.
He said the tougher enforcement in the US to check the “flow of funds” had caused terrorists to seek more innovative ways to avoid detection.
“Moving money through certain financial markets is more difficult, so they are looking for alternative means,” he said.
He stressed the need for effective international cooperation between countries, as well as between government agencies and banks. He said the recent arrest of senior al-Qaeda member Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in Pakistan would likely yield valuable information on the group’s financing activities.
Despite some successes, Lormel said there was still a long way to go. Describing the FBI’s counter-terrorism unit as having “progressed incrementally” in reaching its objective, he said its biggest challenge was the identification of potential al-Qaeda sleeper cells and locating the thousands of people who had been through the al-Qaeda training camps.
“From a financial standpoint, we support the terrorism division by putting mechanisms in place where we can identify these people but the war against terrorism will take time.”
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