The New CTF: Reviewing Practical Tools to Counter Terrorism’s Evolving Financing Methods – ACAMS 2017 Panel
“It’s very cheap to kill.”
A sobering message from Richard Stocks, Global Chief Technology Officer, Financial Crimes and Compliance Solutions, Pitney Bowes, on the new face of global terrorism. This is in light of the fact that law enforcement and AML activities have disrupted terror groups like ISIS and al Qaeda, forcing these groups to take a new approach to their efforts and how they fund them. Particularly as more and more terror financing now involves the movement of smaller amounts of money.
In spite of this, though, the panelist from this afternoon’s session at ACAMS – “The New CTF: Reviewing Practical Tools to Counter Terrorism’s Evolving Financing Methods” – believe that AML professionals can rise to the challenge.
According to Dennis Lormel, president and CEO of DML Associates, the U.S. has the tools it needs to lead the way in counter terrorism financing (CTF). From the Department of Treasury, State Department, military, and intelligence, the federal government needs their collective powers to fight this issue, he noted. But all of this must be supported by banks and financial institutions to cut off financing. And he notes, leadership also is needed at the local level to de-radicalize youth in communities targeted by terror recruiting networks. A key example of how this effort is beginning to take hold, Lormel explained, is in the outreach work underway in the Somali community in Minneapolis. If we can exploit terrorists’ two vulnerabilities – finance and communications – CTF efforts will succeed. But this model must spread.
“Until [global CTF] frameworks start matching what we have here in the U.S., it going to be challenging,” Bryant Gofstein, Global Head of Financial Intelligence and Security, Western Union, said.
Data sharing is also an issue, Martin Cunningham, director, Head of Business Intelligence Unit, Anti-Financial Crime, Americas, Deutsche Bank, explained. But this is a space where global law enforcement can help, he noted.
After the Paris terror attack in November 2015, investigators were able to detect a “financial footprint” in relation to the attackers. This is where the Department of Homeland Security and Financial Crimes Enforcement Network were able to help and make sense of the data, Gofstein explained.
“Keep an open dialogue,” Stocks suggested as a method for AML professionals to help law enforcement make sense of the data.
This approach, the panel agreed, is vital, particularly as terrorist financing is beginning to change. As Cunningham explained, it’s beginning to look like mafia funding or narco trafficking where different parties send money to one location. The issue is that these locations are typically in conflict zones and difficult to access.
Adding to the difficulty is that terror and transnational crime organizations have begun to converge.
“If [terrorists] see they can sustain their criminal activities through these relationships, they’re going to do it,” Lormel said.
The goal, Gofstein said, is to unleash data from different sources to unveil new patterns. For example, if a subject is receiving or spending funds in one city, and then another, it’s easy to assume that person is traveling. Systems can be automated to flag this type of data.
“Our role here, collectively, is to leverage technology to understand these flows and behaviors, in context,” Stocks explained. If you look at recent terror attacksand line them up side-by-side, you see “threads and commonalities in the data. While technology is a key to this, it also means analysts – like AML professionals – must prioritize and focus resources, Gofstein added.