A British police team has been recognized for its work to stop money getting into the hands of terrorists.
The work of the National Terrorist Financial Investigation Unit (NTFIU) was highlighted in a report by the global governmental body Financial Action Task Force (FATF). The report, published December 7, details a number of the unit’s investigations and praises the “close relationship between the NTFIU and UK financial institutions” which has “proved effective” in supporting terrorist financing investigations and prosecutions.
The NTFIU is based within the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command and is comprised of counter terrorism financial investigators, analysts and researchers who investigate suspicious financial activity where they believe it may have links to terrorism. They do this by carrying out forensic examinations of individuals’ financial activity to identify where money is coming from, who it is going to, what it is being spent on and who is involved in moving it.
Since 2010, the NTFIU’s investigations have resulted in 105 convictions for a range of offences from terrorist fundraising to fraud by false representation. Several suspects await trial or are subject to ongoing investigations. It has also ensured the removal of more than £11 million from criminals’ hands in the last five years.
Commander Clarke Jarrett, head of the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command, said: “Financial investigation is a crucial part of the counter terrorism effort. Not only is this team stopping money from reaching the hands of terrorists or being used to fund terrorist attacks, it’s using specific legislation to access a range of financial data.
“Once pieced together, this information paints a very telling picture about suspects’ activities, who they are associated with and who should also be investigated.”
Every ten years the FATF assesses 35 countries against its international standards in three key areas, one of which is countering terrorist financing. It publishes the results in a Mutual Evaluation Report. The FATF awarded the UK the highest possible rating for its effectiveness countering terrorist financing, for which the NTFIU plays an integral role.
The NTFIU was created in 2004 and has since launched and assisted the UK’s nine regional counter terrorism units with thousands of investigations, working with law enforcement agencies here and across the world.
In one of its biggest cases, the NTFIU dismantled a 38-strong network of criminals involved in defrauding 18 elderly people out of their life savings, totalling more than £1.2m. The money has all been returned to living victims as a result of the NTFIU pursuing confiscation orders. The investigation team initially made inquiries into a possible link to terrorist financing and it is believed that some of the victims’ money was transferred into the accounts of individuals who later travelled to Syria, but none of the defendants were charged with terrorist offences.
Commander Jarrett said: “A large quantity of the National Terrorist Financial Investigation Unit’s work focusses on disrupting potential terrorist activity by pursuing individuals for other crime. We may have an individual who initially comes onto the Counter Terrorism Command’s radar because we suspect they are involved in terrorist activity. There may be insufficient evidence to charge them for such an offence but in the course of their enquiries, investigators identify another crime they are involved in, like money laundering, benefit fraud or forgery, and we pursue them for this.”
In its report, the FATF highlights the importance of such disruption work, stating that “authorities make good use of alternative criminal justice, regulatory or other measures to disrupt terrorist financing activity where securing a terrorist financing conviction is not possible”.
It also praises the UK’s success in removing terrorists’ money or limiting their access to it through a range of tactics. In the last five financial years, the NTFIU has successfully sought the forfeiture of £1,661,406 from subjects of investigations and seized a further £9,340,715 cash under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Such is the importance of the NTFIU’s work, since its inception its size has increased ten-fold and it is considered a world-leader in its field of investigation. The unit’s success is in part thanks to its close relationship with the financial sector, who report suspicious banking activity and have assisted the police with numerous investigations. The FATF’s report highlights how numerous financial institutions have proactively offered their assistance to the NTFIU after terrorist attacks, helping counter terrorism police build a full intelligence picture.