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The UN must be given powers to break the link between terrorism and organised crime

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terrorist groups profiting from organised crime

The UN last week called on member states, NGOs and other organisations to do more to prevent terrorist groups profiting from organised crime. In a statement, Security Council President Joanna Wronecka encouraged member nations to investigate and prosecute extremists and criminal groups that work together, calling for a strengthening of national, regional and global systems designed to collect, analyse and exchange information about their activities. But while the sentiments behind the UN’s latest call to action were laudable, Wronecka’s statement contained little in the way of new policy suggestions, and barely differed from previous calls made by the organisation on the same subject, such as a 2014 resolution urging international action to break links between terrorists and transnational organised crime.

Since then, terrorist organisations have continued to derive large parts of their income from activities that have more traditionally been associated with organised criminal networks, with little sign that international law enforcement authorities have had much success in breaking the link between extremist groups and organised criminality. If anything, it appears terrorist organisations, particularly those of the Islamist variety, have become bolder in their efforts to raise revenue from organised crime. Only last week, Italian counter-terror police revealed they had broken up a suspected transnational people smuggling network that trafficked migrants across Europe and sent the profits it made to an al-Qa’ida-linked extremist group in Syria. It is thought the trafficking gang provided Hayat Tahrir al-Sham jihadis with €2 million ($2.38 million) in funding, which was funnelled through the hawala system, an informal remittance channel commonly used in Arab countries and South Asia.

Aside from people  smuggling, and in spite of their hard-line attitude towards the consumption of narcotics and alcohol on religious grounds, Islamist terrorist organisations appear to have few qualms about profiting from drug trafficking, or supplying illegal substances to their militants. In November last year, police in Italy intercepted a shipment of opioid painkiller Tramadol estimated to be worth €50 million, which investigators said was destined to be sold to Daesh fighters in the Middle East and North Africa. Italian officials suggested the extremist group may have organised the shipment in collaboration with the feared ’Ndrangheta mafia clan.

Last October, a report from the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and professional service firm KPMG revealed that terrorist organisations around the globe rely on smuggling, counterfeiting and piracy to fund up to 20% of their operations. Anil Rajput, Chair of the FICCI’s Committee against Smuggling and Counterfeiting Activities Destroying Economy (CASCADE), said: “In today’s time, the world’s largest and most notorious terrorist organisations are relying on the proceeds from illicit trade to give shape to their evil ideas. It is my firm view that to conquer this menace, all stakeholders will have to collectively put their might behind the cause.”

As well as participating in more traditional types of organised crime, terrorist organisations such as Daesh have also proved adept at seeking out new sources of revenue as their circumstances change, many of which have required the support of already-established criminal networks. On top of profiting from the trafficking of drugs through its former so-called caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria, Daesh was able to raise a fortune from selling fuel and cultural artefacts it had plundered from the two countries. Much of this was smuggled out of the areas the group controlled and sold onto corrupt nation states or criminal gangs.

In its latest call for member nations to do all they can to break the link between extremism and organised crime, the UN was quick to say any new measures taken to counter terrorism “must comply with all [members states’] obligations under international law”, while at the same time offering no new policies itself. In fact, the only tangible idea Wronecka mentioned in her address was a vague suggestion that member states should “prevent the movement of terrorists by effective national border controls and controls on issuance of identity papers and travel documents”, which sounded in essence not entirely dissimilar to US President Donald Trump’s much-derided travel ban, which the UN itself dismissed as “mean-spirited” and illegal under human rights law.

And this is where the problem lies. The UN should be given the power to force member states to take real action to curb the illicit activities from which terrorist organisations are able to profit. As things stand, all it can do is issue platitude-laden statements from the side-lines, imploring member nations to take action. With no sanctions for refusing to do so, it is all but inevitable that the coordinated response the UN has called for will fail to materialise. Member states should vote to give the UN the teeth it needs to force the introduction of the border controls and travel restrictions it thinks will help prevent terrorists from seeking to profit from organised crime, while the Security Council itself should spend less time worrying about the human rights of terrorist suspects. If they do not, UN interventions on the issue will come to be seen as futile as they are increasingly irrelevant.

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Researchers develop new ‘fingerprint’ tracking method for 3D-printed guns

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‘fingerprint’ tracking method

In a discovery that could help law enforcement agencies across the globe track 3D-printed guns and counterfeit goods, a team of scientists at the University at Buffalo has found that no two 3D printers are the same, and that all have their own “fingerprints”.

The researchers claim to have developed what they describe as the world’s first accurate method for tracing a 3D-printed object to the device on which it was made.

Commenting on the discovery, study lead author Wenyao Xu said:”3D printing has many wonderful uses, but it’s also a counterfeiter’s dream. Even more concerning, it has the potential to make firearms more readily available to people who are not allowed to possess them.

“3D printers are built to be the same. But there are slight variations in their hardware created during the manufacturing process that lead to unique, inevitable and unchangeable patterns in every object they print.”

Xu and his team found that every layer of a 3D-printed object contains unique tiny wrinkles that can be used to identify various characteristics of the machine that was used to create it, including printer model type, filament, nozzle size and other factors.

To test their new tracking method, which they dubbed the PrinTracker project, the scientists printed five door keys from 14 common 3D printers.

They then scanned each of the door keys to create a digital image that was enhanced and filtered, allowing for the identification of the unique in-fill patterns of each object.

The researchers were then able to match each key to the printer on which it was produced with 99.8% accuracy.

Xu likened the tracking method to the ability to identify the source of paper documents, a practice that has been used by law enforcement agencies, printer companies and other organisations for decades.

Speaking with Vice News, David Chipman, Senior Policy Adviser at Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said: “For this to be useful to law enforcement who would be tracing guns, you’d have to have a record of the unique signature of every 3D printer being sold. We can only match it if we already have a record of it.”

While 3D-printed guns are currently widely considered as being flimsy and unreliable, experts fear that as the technology advances, they could be routinely used by criminals and terrorists on account of the fact they were considered to be nearly impossible to trace.

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British government calls on business to tackle forced labour in supply chains on Anti-Slavery Day

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Anti-Slavery Day

Landmarks across the UK were bathed in red light on Thursday evening to mark Anti-Slavery Day in Britain.

Government buildings including 10 Downing Street and the Home Office, along with business landmarks such as London’s BT Tower and Manchester’s Co-Op HQ were illuminated to mark the event, which was intended to raise awareness of the crime and encourage support for the UK’s Modern Slavery Victim Support Bill, which is currently making its way through parliament.

The bill is intended to improve the support available to victims of modern slavery,

In an announcement released to coincide with Anti-Slavery Day, the UK Home Office said it is writing directly to the CEOs of 17,000 businesses across the country, demanding that they accurately report instances of modern slavery discovered in their supply chains, or risk being named and shamed as being in breach of the law.

Under the Modern Slavery Act 2015, large British companies are required to report on the prevalence of modern slavery in their global supply chains.

“Some businesses are already leading the way in taking action by being open and transparent about what they are doing to identify, tackle and prevent forced labour in their supply chains, but too many are still failing to meet their basic legal obligations,” Home Office Minister Victoria Atkins said.

“That’s why the Home Office is sending letters to businesses today with a clear message that continued non-compliance will not be tolerated.”

In a report released days before Anti-Slavery Day, the Salvation Army charity revealed that the number of British people referred to its specialist support for adult victims of modern slavery had nearly doubled over the course of a year.

The study found that 86 British victims of modern slavery were supported by the Salvation Army between July 2017 and June 2018, up from 44 the previous year.

The report also revealed that slavemasters are routinely using drugs and alcohol as means by which to control British victims of modern slavery across the UK.

Elsewhere, the National Crime Agency (NCA), the UK’s equivalent to the FBI, on Thursday announced it has teamed up with NGO Stop The Traffik to raise awareness of the difference between sex work and sexual exploitation, and to encourage better reporting of trafficking concerns.

The agency has also told big technology firms to better police the online sex trade.

NCA Deputy Director Tom Dowdall said: “We know from sex workers who are not being exploited that adult services websites (ASWs) provide safety benefits as they are able to vet customers and avoid those with a history of abuse or violence.

“However, we recognise that ASWs also provide offenders with the ability to easily advertise multiple victims, increase the amount of sexual services victims are forced to provide, and maximise criminal profits.”

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Canada to pardon minor cannabis possession convictions as country legalises the drug

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pardon minor cannabis possession convictions

Canadians convicted of possessing 30 grams or less of cannabis are to be pardoned, a source from Justin Trudeau’s ruling Liberal Party has said.

Speaking as Canada became only the second country in the world after Uruguay to legalise the recreational use of cannabis, the source said Ottawa will allow anybody with a criminal record that includes any such charge to apply to have it removed from their files.

Revealing that the exact process people will need to follow to apply for a pardon will be announced in the near future, the official told Canada’s Star newspaper: “For people to whom this applies in their past, we’re going to give them certainty that there will be recourse for them… in terms of exactly how it gets rolled out, the steps that we take, how much time it will take them, we’ll lay that out in the coming days and weeks.”

The announcement was made after members of the New Democratic Party lobbied the Canadian government to pardon people who had been caught in possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use, noting how such convictions can prevent individuals from marginalised communities from accessing housing and services.

The amnesty was announced after Canada officially legalised cannabis on Wednesday after the country’s parliament voted to do so back in June.

Long queues formed outside new cannabis shops across the country on Tuesday evening ahead of the first legally-sold marijuana being purchased from a store on the eastern island of Newfoundland at midnight.

Tom Clarke, 43, who owns the shop in Newfoundland, told reporters: “I am living my dream. Teenage Tom Clarke is loving what I am doing with my life right now.

“This is awesome. I’ve been waiting my whole life for this. I am so happy to be living in Canada right now instead of south of the border,” added Clarke, who told reporters he had been dealing cannabis illegally in Canada for 30 years.

“It’s been a long time coming. We’ve only been discussing this for 50 years. It’s better late than never.”

Despite the introduction of the new law, it will remain forbidden for Canadians to be in possession of more than 30 grams of cannabis while in public, grow more than four marijuana plants per household or buy the drug from unlicensed dealers.

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