Risk of Australians financing terrorism



AUSTRALIANS transfer almost $600 million a year to countries where terrorism financing is a real risk, a new report shows.

The latest report of the independent national security legislation monitor found that Australians were financing terrorism in countries such as Pakistan, Somalia and Syria.

In 2012/13, money transfers to Pakistan totalled $490 million, while $54 million went to Afghanistan, $21 million to Syria and $17 million to Somalia.

Al-Qaeda’s core leadership and networks are in the border regions in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“The fact that Australians are sending funds to countries where terrorism financing is a real risk shows the need for terrorism financing laws,” independent monitor Bret Walker said.

“Even if a small percentage of those funds was going towards terrorism financing it would be sufficient to fund terrorist organisations and terrorist attacks.”

Mr Walker said the movement of money was made worse by the fact that countries such as Afghanistan and Syria had poor border controls.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) told Mr Walker in a submission that it was difficult to keep tabs on Australians travelling to Syria as some had dual passports while others used informal border crossings to get into the country.

It has been estimated the September 11 attacks in the United States only cost about $500,000 to execute.

Mr Walker did not recommend any change to existing terrorism financing laws in Australia.

However, he suggested the government examine a new criminal offence of funding hospitals and orphanages run by terrorist organisations.

Mr Walker said the “humanitarian” activities of terrorist organisations, such as building homes for the children of suicide bombers, were part of a hearts and minds campaign to recruit members and gain public support.

And it was almost impossible to know what such donations were actually used for.

In 2010, three men pleaded guilty in the Victorian Supreme Court to financing the banned Tamil Tigers by channelling at least $700,000 through a charity set up for Sri Lankan tsunami relief.