How illicit trade of cigarettes is funding terrorism globally
A report states that illicit trade including smuggling, piracy and counterfeiting continue to be the most preferred mechanisms used by terrorists to fund their operations.
According to the report - titled Illicit Trade: Fuelling Terror Financing and Organised Crime - many prominent terrorist organisations, including Hezbollah, Lashkar-e-Tayiba, Al Qaida, and the Irish Republican Army, rely on illicit trade for financing up to 20 per cent of their terror operations.
The Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris in 2015 is one example given where this was the case, while Al-Qaeda uses the illicit trade of cigarettes and apparel as one of its financing sources. Both Lashkar-e-Taiba and Irish Republican Army source income from the illicit trade of cigarettes among other goods, the report said.
The report was launched at the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) MASCRADE 2017 conference.
In India, D-Company is identified as a terrorist organisation thriving on the black market of counterfeit goods in the country. The report said that the transformation of D-Company into a terrorist entity is believed to coincide with its entry into trade of counterfeit goods.
"It has now been established beyond doubt that illicit trade is the fuel that energises the terror machine," said Anil Rajput, chairman of FICCI CASCADE. "Today, the world's largest and most notorious terrorist organisations are relying on the proceeds from illicit trade to give shape to their evil designs. It is my firm view that in order to conquer this menace, all stakeholders will have to collectively put their might behind the cause. This will enable us to reach our desired goal of defeating the evil intentions of the terrorists and those indulging in organised crime."
Counterfeiting provides terrorists with an opportunity to quickly finance themselves under the radar of authorities. For instance, the smuggling and counterfeiting of cigarettes has been found to account for more than 20 per cent of criminal funding sources for terrorist organisations. "Smuggling, counterfeiting and piracy appeal to the terrorist organisations more than the other means of financing because of the low risks associated with it," the report also said.
The report also notes that the evolution of terrorism in recent times has been driven by the development of unique technologies that provide a platform to manoeuvre its illicit trade operations, pointing to the Darknet as the main culprit, with its anonymity and lack of traceability. "Essentially, the Darknet has become one of the major platforms for supporting illicit trade, which eventually helps in generating easy financing for organised crime and terrorism," the report said.
The development of the internet and e-commerce has also allowed illicit trade to prosper, which terrorists have taken advantage of, the report also states.
The report makes four main recommendations to control illicit trade: Better awareness about counterfeit and smuggled products through government initiatives; the partnering of government and industry to run campaigns for reducing the market for counterfeit and pirated goods; the development of task forces to check the growth of illicit trade and links between terrorism, organised crime and illicit trade; and moves to draw a balance between government revenue needs through taxation and the incentives illicit market gets through increased taxes on goods.