Along with valuable insights into propagation and communication strategies among each group, the Europol report also reveals how these organizations finance their activities. Here is an overview of what could be popular but unconventional and difficult-to-detect means of funding for extremists.
Different Ways of Terrorism Financing in Europe
It appears that screening for terrorism financing in Europe may prove a bit daunting task. The reason is that extremist factions are apparently either bypassing traditional financial institutions or using legitimate businesses and transactions to raise funds. Some of these means may include selling concerts and events tickets and selling merchandise on e-commerce platforms. The terrorists also use gaming platforms and encrypted messaging applications for the propagation of their ideas and radicalization of the masses.
Use of Virtual Assets for Financing Terrorist Activities
As per the report, advanced financial technologies are gaining popularity among users for the financing of terrorism. Cryptocurrencies and other forms of virtual assets are used because of the inherent feature of anonymity associated with these transactions.
Use of Legal Business Structure
The use of legal business operations to finance terrorist operations is very common across the spectrum of terrorist outfits whether from right-wing or left-wing. Europol report presents the case of a terrorist suspect who likely used a network of companies in different countries to raise funds for the Islamic State. Apart from using off-shore companies with a presence in different jurisdictions organizations even use some other legitimate businesses like coffee houses, bars, kiosks, etc. to finance their extremist motives.
Use of Criminal Activities
Crimes like drug trafficking, human smuggling, robbery, theft, identity theft, tax fraud, illegal use of public funds, social-benefits fraud, and other economic fraud are also very often used by terrorists to get financial support for their operations.
Raising Funds Through Social Media and E-Commerce
What seems to be an unusual means of financing is the sale of merchandise through social media, e-commerce, and video gaming platforms. The very reason that such transactions are often in small amounts, makes it difficult for the reporting authorities to detect and screen for any wrongdoing. Funding through crowdfunding campaigns and membership fees raised through cloud-based applications is also used by terrorist organizations to collect money for their illicit activities,
Donations and Humanitarian Aid
Donations and humanitarian aid collected through community events and concerts are also one of the means of terrorism financing in Europe among the different extremist groups. Screening funds from these events to check whether they are actually authentic or not also requires a great deal of vigilance because any false flag can jeopardize the funding for some right cause as well.
Layering of Funds
As Anti-Money laundering laws in Europe are gaining a stronghold, extremists are using more sophisticated means of layering. For example, exchanging crypto-currencies with fiat in another jurisdiction, sending this money through hawala, and then using money transfer businesses and money mules to send the funds to the final beneficiary making it really complex for law enforcement to track down the initial beneficiary,
What Is the Challenge?
A look at popular means of terrorism financing in Europe reveals that individual risk profiling might be more important than business risk profiling since businesses very often seem legitimate. Here, again knowing your customer seems more necessary than knowing your business for financial institutions when it comes to tracking down terrorist financing by individuals who are not big enough to get under the radar of law enforcement.