Dodgy Australian charities funding terrorist groups: AUSTRAC report
THE nation’s financial intelligence agency has found evidence of Australian charities sending millions of dollars to fund global terrorist organisations — including Islamic State.
AUSTRAC is also warning that dodgy charities could start raising cash for domestic terrorist activity “as Australia’s threat environment continues to evolve”.
It suspects some key charity personnel are using false identity documents to avoid money-moving reporting obligations and others have sophisticated methods to evade detection.
AUSTRAC has evidence of fake charities popping up after natural disasters and overseas conflicts, which then use social media and crowd-funding platforms to seek donations.
“In these instances, funds are almost always transferred offshore to support an overseas conflict or assist Australian foreign fighters,” a new AUSTRAC report said.
The shock findings are contained in an AUSTRAC report on money laundering and terrorism financing by Australia’s non-profit organisations, released today by Justice Minister Michael Keenan and Assistant Minister to the Treasurer Michael Sukkar.
“In known and suspected instances of terrorism financing, NPOs have primarily been used to raise funds in Australia and transfer money offshore for individuals or terrorist groups engaged in foreign conflict,” the report said.
“Funds are then suspected to be diverted by senior NPO personnel to finance offshore terrorist activity, or are siphoned by local offshore terrorist groups.
“It is reasonable to assess in the current terrorism financing environment that most, if not all, NPO funds that end up in terrorist hands in the main conflict theatres in the Middle East will be used for military and operational purposes.
“The battlefield pressure that ISIL in particular is under indicates that external funding from overseas — including diverted NPO funds — will be channelled into arming and sustaining fighters in the field.
“The threat of terrorism financing in the NPO sector is assessed as medium.
“This is based on the volume of suspicious matter reporting to AUSTRAC intelligence holdings and the number of NPOs identified during counter terrorism investigations as linked to persons of interest.”
Mr Keenan yesterday said the report had found significant links between NPOs and members of Australia’s most serious and organised crime groups.
“Between 2012 and 2016, 735 investigations were conducted into suspicious criminal misuse, nearly all of these related to fraud or theft of resources,” he said.
“In that same time, 249 suspicious matter reports were submitted for suspected money laundering or criminal misuse involving an NPO — with a total value of $57.8 million.
“There were also 28 suspicious matter reports related to terrorism financing involving NPOs, with a total value of $5.6 million.
“While this is a relatively small figure compared to the overall income of the sector, it represents a significant figure in the current terrorism financing environment.
“What this shows is that NPOs have the capacity to quickly raise and camouflage the movement of large amounts of funds offshore to support individuals or groups engaged in foreign conflict.”