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Asia-Pacific Security Officials Site Improvements - 2002-10-31

Police and law enforcement agencies from the Asia-Pacific region have concluded two days of meetings in Vancouver, Canada, where they discussed how to improve their ability to cut off the financing of international terrorism. The officials say their ability to interrupt the funding of terrorist groups has improved since last year. The conference of the Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering brought together 130 police officers and security experts from dozens of nations and international organizations.

Rick McDonell, the head of the APG, as the organization is known, says shared information is the lifeblood of the fight against terrorist financing. He says recent terrorist attacks have renewed the incentive for nations to share information that will help cut-off the cash used for terrorism. And he adds the public can be assured the investigation of the financial infrastructure of terrorist networks has become more intensive since the attacks in the United States last year. "I think they can certainly feel confident that countries are now cooperating in a way they didn't previously. I think previously they had not too many grounds for being confident about cooperation, but since September the 11 and since recent other bombings that have brought the focal point onto sharing of information," he says. "And why we've essentially been here for the last two days is to put in place-improved systems for information sharing. So yes, there's grounds for more confidence."

The focus of many conversations at the annual gathering, which ended Wednesday, was support for terrorism from non-profit organizations and charities. Experts asserted these groups are the number one source of money for terrorist networks. They said once money is donated to certain charities, underground currency handlers move it around the world.

Superintendent Garry Clement of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is the Director of the Proceeds of Crime Branch in Ottawa. He says that by working with many other police forces, Canadian authorities have been able detect terrorist networks and predicts there may soon be some arrests. "The potential for some arrests is there. The one thing I can say categorically is, do we have a better understanding of what we're dealing with in this country? The answer is definitely," says Mr. Clement. "In as much as we've garnered a lot of intelligence. We know what some of those organizations are. There has been a listing of some of those organizations - working with our U.S. counterparts, so some of those things have been beneficial."

While there has been some concern that the worldwide concentration on terrorism has been at the expense of the fight against other types of crime, Rick McDonell of the APG says that in some significant instances the contrary is true. He says it has helped instead of hindered some other investigations. He notes, for example, that the trade in illegal narcotics is often controlled by the same organizations that are involved in terrorism.