CANBERRA – The ongoing civil war in Syria and more vigilant reporting from banks and other financial institutions has led to authorities spotting triple the number of suspicious transactions linked to terrorism funding, in particular to Islamic State.
In its annual report, Australia’s financial intelligence unit AUSTRAC, has recorded 367 cases of suspicious money transfers (SMR) related to terrorism funding, up from 118 the previous financial year.
AUSTRAC states the large increase in cases reported in its annual report is linked to the number of Australians travelling to join terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq, and it’s revealed it is monitoring more than 100 people in Australia suspected of funding terrorism.
Last year’s suspicious transactions linked to terrorism financing were worth around $53 million, including $11 million in cash.
Despite the increase in detection, this may only be the tip of the iceberg. AUSTRAC states most terrorism financing involves low-value, disguised or co-mingled transactions, making them difficult to spot.
It reports, "A significant amount of SMR value is potentially unrelated".
Of the 81,074 suspicious reports received in the past financial year, the agency states 536 were related to terrorism investigations, with 98 percent of those further investigated by other agencies, including ASIO.
AUSTRAC reports the money funds both individual attacks and operations, as well sustaining the terrorist network with less violent operations such as “living expenses, travel, propaganda activities, and compensation for wounded fighters or the families of terrorists who have died".
Last year, AUSTRAC received 81,074 suspicious reports, a 21 percent rise on the previous financial year.
The reported spike in SMRs comes as the Turnbull Government prepares to hold a counter-terrorism financing summit in Sydney later this month. Co-hosted with Indonesia, the two day event will bring together more than 150 counter terrorism and financial intelligence experts from 17 countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
The Federal Government last year increased AUSTRAC's funding by $20 million to stop the financing of terrorists from Australia.