Nations discuss terror-financing risks posed by charity donations

Terror-financing risks evolve in AML/CFT Compliance

Australia and some of its South Pacific neighbors are urging citizens to take special care with donations to charities in order to avoid the unwitting financing of terror, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Nations in the region met earlier this month at a counter-terrorism conference in Bali, and the potential threat from charities and non-profit organizations was a topic of discussion.

Michael Keenan, Australia’s Justice Minister, noted in his remarks at the conference that Australians contribute a lot to charities and that much of that goes to programs in other nations around the globe. Tracking the precise use of those funds is difficult, and he cited as an example the concerns about whether a World Vision aid worker had funneled donations to Hamas, which was a claim made by Israel just before the Bali anti-terror conference.

AUSTRAC, Australia’s financial intelligence agency, expressed similar concerns. AUSTRAC CEO Paul Jevtovic cited recent examples of large amounts of charity-directed donations from Australians being secretly diverted to terror operations, and he noted too the growing prevalence of what he termed “pop-up non-profit organizations,” often unvetted groups that appear suddenly at times of crisis—say attacks on civilians in Syria or Iraq—and solicit donations when people are most interested in quickly aiding victims of high-profile and urgent situations.

Regional experts at the Bali event reported that donations diverted from charities are second only to self-funded sources of terror financing. The self-funding option has become increasingly threatening due to the rising prevalence and encouragement of lone-wolf attacks that cost very little money and so can be funded by the perpetrator with little outside assistance.

A related concern was the simplicity of stored-value cards for moving money around the world. Australia for one has begun analysis of tighter regulations on stored-value cards in order to blunt their ease of use for terror financing.


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