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Australia Summit Probes Terror Financing

  • Phil Mercer

FILE - An Islamic State militant holds the group's flag as he stands on a tank captured from Syrian government forces, in the town of al-Qaryatayn southwest of Palmyra, central Syria.

FILE - An Islamic State militant holds the group's flag as he stands on a tank captured from Syrian government forces, in the town of al-Qaryatayn southwest of Palmyra, central Syria.

Australia and Indonesia are co-hosting the Asia-Pacific’s first Counter-Terrorism Financing Summit in Sydney, which brings together more than 150 experts in counterterrorism financing from more than a dozen countries, including the United States and Canada.

Australia's financial intelligence agency, known as AUSTRAC, has reported a record number of investigations into the funding of terrorism.

Transactions suspected of being linked to militant groups have tripled over the past year, mainly because of the flow of Australian extremists traveling to fight in Syria and Iraq. During that period, AUSTRAC was alerted to more than 530 cases with alleged links to radical organizations.

The complex task of tracking money to its sources is the focus of a two-day summit co-hosted by Australia and Indonesia in Sydney.

Delegates have heard it is not an easy task given that most terrorism financing involves low-value payments, which are often disguised or hidden within legitimate deals.

'Terrorist act'

“The problem for us of course is that a terrorist act as we know can start from someone purchasing a knife, to someone purchasing air tickets, to obviously more complex terrorist acts," said Paul Jevtovic, the head of AUSTRAC.

"So the range of funds that could be involved are extensive and again that's one of the challenges we face. So the quantum of money in any particular transaction or act of itself is just one indicator, we need to link that to many other indicators that would start to paint a picture to allow us to act promptly,” Jevtovic said.

Authorities say they are monitoring more than 100 people in Australia suspected of bankrolling extremist organizations.

The aim of the Sydney summit is to build closer international cooperation to combat the funding of extremism and other serious financial crime.

Australia’s Justice Minister Michael Keenan is to visit Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines next month to strengthen intelligence-sharing in the fight against the Islamic State group.

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