Suspected terrorist funding out of Australia triples

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Sydney (dpa) – Australia reported a surge in suspected remittances to overseas terrorists in a report released Wednesday.

A total of 536 so-called suspicious matter reports were referred to the security forces on suspicion of financing terrorism in the 2014-2015 period, up 300 per cent from the previous year, according to Austrac, the agency fighting money laundering.

The flagged transactions represented 53 million Australian dollars (38 million US dollars), including about 11 million Australian dollars in cash, it said.

The government said it was important to note that the total money referred to transactions flagged as suspicious rather than confirmed transfers to terrorists.

An Austrac official explained that the 536 figure referred to the number of reports provided by the financial sector that were identified as suspicious by authorities. The sector itself flagged up 367 cases as suspicious, she said.

One money transfer company in Sydney had its licence cancelled as it may have been a significant terrorism-financing risk, the report said.

“The volume of terrorism financing in Australia is linked to the number of Australians travelling to join terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq,” Austrac’s report said.

“We have been monitoring more than 100 people of interest and keep our partner agencies informed about their financial activities.”

Austrac said the funding was suspected of reaching individual attacks and operations, but also for sustaining “the less violent or obvious aspects of a group’s operations.”

These include “living expenses, travel, training, propaganda activities, and compensation for wounded fighters or the families of terrorists who have died,” the report said.

Twelve months ago the government boosted Austrac’s budget by 20 million Australian dollars to track money being sent out of Australia to suspected terrorists.

Justice Minister Michael Keenan warned people who want to send funds to charities doing humanitarian work in Syria and Iraq to be careful as some were supporting extremist groups such as Islamic State.

Keenan also announced Wednesday that Australia and Indonesia will co-host the first counter-terrorism financing summit in the Asia Pacific region in Sydney from November 17 to 18.

It will bring together more than 150 leaders and experts in counter terrorism financing and financial intelligence from 17 countries.

“Cutting off the funds at the source can make a significant difference to national security here in Australia, in our region and beyond,” Keenan said in the announcement.

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