(State Department photo)

UN: Links Between Organized Crime and Terrorism are Increasing, Lines Becoming Blurred

Terror groups are getting increasingly-involved in “lucrative” criminal activities such as trading in natural resources and human trafficking, Michèle Coninsx, the executive director of the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), told a Security Council briefing on Oct. 8.

Similarly, criminal groups join hands with terrorists, and are providing services such as counterfeiting, arms dealing, and helping to smuggle terrorists from one country to another, she said.

“We know that terrorist groups recruit individuals with criminal background or criminal skills, and petty crimes are committed to finance terrorist activities, including travel of foreign terrorist fighters,” explained Coninsx, noting that conflicts and instability further entrench such deal-making.

Coninsx urged the international community to strengthen cooperation in the fight against terrorism and its support structures, especially to identify new terrorist trends, map links between terrorists and criminal groups, and share information more effectively.

At the briefing, Gustavo Meza-Cuadra Velásquez, the chairman of the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee, said that the nexus between terrorism and international crime syndicates has been high on the agenda of the Security Council as well as the General Assembly for a long time. Velásquez, also the permanent representative of Peru to the UN, highlighted the importance of international instruments – in particular, the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its supplementary protocols and Security Council resolutions – for countries to disrupt criminal and terrorist groups.

In that context, he reiterated that development of an effective response to the growing nexus between terror and crime should remain one of the highest priorities during his leadership of the committee.

Laura Adal, a senior analyst at the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime, said that the use of violence and threats of violence employed by both terrorists and criminal groups tends to “blur the lines” between the two.

While dynamics of individual groups are unique and highly localized, both criminal and terrorist groups contribute to instability and undermine governance, and both rely on the “strategic” use of violence, said Adal.

Responding to the crime-terror nexus must take into account their propensity toward violence and intimidation, she said, calling for greater efforts to strengthen rule of law, democratic governance and development.

Organized crime is increasingly undermining peace, security and development. It has become a global phenomenon, represented in a confluence of conflicts from Africa, to the Middle East and the Americas, and showing a distinct linkage to the response to international terrorism.

Last month, HSToday reported the funding totals and sources for the seven main extremist groups of insurgents and terrorists. The combined funding totals about $1 billion to $1.39 billion a year.

The European Union is strengthening its capacity to fight the financing of terrorism and organized crime. The European Parliament already approved tighter rules against money laundering and cash flows in September, and on Oct. 4 it adopted new rules to help countries fight organized crime and terrorism.

The new rules will make it quicker and simpler for EU member states to ask each other to freeze criminal assets or confiscate criminal property. Depriving criminals of their assets is an important tool for fighting organized crime and terrorism. However, according to a 2016 Europol study, currently only an estimated 1.1 percent of criminal profits are confiscated in the EU.

Under the new rules, an EU country that receives a confiscation order from another EU country will have 45 days to execute the order; cross-border freezing orders have to be executed with the same speed and priority as national ones. Authorities will have four days to freeze the assets if the freezing request is urgent.

Where requested, EU countries will be able to confiscate assets from other people connected to the criminal and they can also act in cases where there is no conviction, such as if the suspect has fled. Standard certificates and forms will be also be introduced to ensure that EU countries act faster and communicate more efficiently.

The new rules still require the formal approval of the European Council. They will apply 24 months after their entry into force.

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Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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