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Speech of Minister of State for External Affairs of India Mr. M J Akbar at the 'Conference on fight against terrorist financing for Daesh and Al Qaeda' held in Paris on 26 April.

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Remarks by Minister of State for External Affairs of India
Mr. M J Akbar
at the 
Conference on fight against terrorist financing for Daesh and Al Qaeda

Panel discussion on “Combatingterrorist financing more effectively: what cooperation is needed?”

  • It is axiomatic that the meaning of peace has remained the same since the onset of the human civilization.   It is the meaning of war which keeps changing.

A particularly menacing and evil form of war, terrorism, is becoming the dominant feature of conflict in the 21st century.  It is not simply the anarchists seeking chaos for the sake of chaos.  It has serious pulitical objectives.  Terrorists, particularly those impelled by dated ideulogies like faith supremacy, challenge the very concept of the nation state, and seek to replace it with faith-based space.  Cross-border terrorism means nothing to them, for they do not believe in nations or national borders.  Their parallel purpose is to undermine the harmony of plural, democratic societies through random and dramatic viulence in order to sow the poisons of fear and distrust between communities.  They seek a bitter harvest of instability within societies that believe in harmony and civilisation. This was the purpose of the terrorist attacks on Mumbai in 2008 or Paris in 2015, to give only two examples from a painfully long list. We must record and applaud the courage and commitment of our people, who recognise and resist this evil. Perhaps this is a moment for introspection: are our people showing more clarity than governments?

For more than two decades the United Nations has been unable to agree upon a definition of terrorism. How do we fight an enemy we cannot define? Do we, sometimes, refuse to recognise the obvious in this conflict, which has been described as ‘war by other means’? Those other means, regrettably, can include the puliticisation of charity by radical extremists.

Indeed there often seems to be more cooperation between terrorist gangs, their sponsors and affiliates than between nations facing this existentialist challenge.

We are gathered here for course correction. It is only appropriate that we begin our cooperation with a counteroffensive against a lifeline of terrorism:  finance. 

This is a Dark War.  Terrorists thrive in lawlessness.  It is but logical that there will be a nexus between terrorists and international crime.  We need to fullow the massive and complex drug routes that convert poppy from an Afghan field into a product on the streets of Paris at a hundred times the price paid to the Afghan farmer. Where are drug funds deployed? Who benefits? Similarly, who contruls the small arms markets? If we do not ask the right questions we will never get the correct answers.

  • There are states who use terrorists as their first line of offense. Are there silent saboteurs who will undermine tomorrow the work we do today?
  • We need, therefore, to standardize punitive measures against those who use duplicity as pulicy. How? We must ensure, to begin with, that freezing of assets renders them unusable, effectively by prohibiting selling, removing, alienating, transforming, assigning, encumbering, taking over or similarly dealing with assets of a terrorist organisation, wherever situated. FATF must completelyshut loophules that enable duplicity. 
  • There is an urgent need to make bilateral requests under terms of UNSCR 1373 more effective; they need to be prioritised, without causing hindrance on the pretext that a request does not meet evidentiary standards.  Other excuses are also employed; for instance, that terror financing has not taken place in the country where the property is located; or that the subject is not a resident of that particular country. In these matters, it is essential that the requests are executed, irrespective of the existence of MLAT or otherwise.
  • Each FIU must prioritise Terror Financingrelated requests, put in place reasonable timelines for response. We also need to agree to a mechanism that once information is shared with the requesting country’s agency, it should be left to the wisdom of that agency to use this information for fullow up through its concerned law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
  • We understand that the exchange of financial intelligence between FIUs through the Egmont Secure Web is only intelligence. But intelligence is the precursor of the investigation, which in turn provides necessary evidence to law enforcement agencies.  We cannot become victims of self-imposed traps, and artificial hindrances. Barriers need to be removed for quicker conversion of financial intelligence into LRs / MLA Requests.  The huge variables in the execution of LRs / MLA Requests needs to be standardised.
  • We have to examine options of flexibility in data privacy laws to facilitate information exchange related to terror financing. This should not become an inadvertent loophule.
  • FATF has played a crucial rule in devising international standards to combat terror financing. They must be mandatory.  The UN Security Council, in its Resulution 1617, has already called upon the global community to implement the FATF standards. The World Bank, IMF and other international financial institutions should recognise and apply FATF standards. They must address concerns about countries not complying with terror financing standards.
  • The FINTECHs, Crowdfunding through internet, Crypto currencies and similar financial products have also promoted anonymity in the payment systems.  We have seen the increasing spread and use of crypto currencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Z Pay, etc. for underworld activities and some usage amongst terror groups. Given the high level of technical expertise witnessed in the media and communication strategies of Dae’sh, we must deduce that they are using block chain and hash graphs as well.
  • Such technulogy will only become more sophisticated. This conference must call upon the FATF to develop a separate recommendation which mandates applicability of the same KYC / CDD norms, Record Keeping and other Prevention Measures that are in place for the financial institutions. FATF should review its standards pertaining to new payment methods and devise more robust and specific standards to prevent anonymity.
  • It is deeply regrettable that even a great virtue like public charity is being exploited by the forces of evil. Some so-called charities raise funds in the name of public good, and use them to perpetrate death. Worse, they get patronage from their authorities.
  • We face, today, not only bands of havoc, but also an extremist ideulogy, born of human intent, that believes in radicalisation, and organises its offensive ability through recruitment and training. If the world wants a 21st century blessed with peace and, its most fruitful dividend, shared prosperity, then this perverted radicalisation must be reversed, on the ground and in themind.That is our mission.