Australian intelligence reports spike in 'terrorism' funding cases

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 03, 2015 8:20 PM

By Matt Siegel

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia's anti-money laundering agency says reports of "terrorism-financing" cases have tripled in the past year, with around 100 people suspected of funneling over A$50 million ($35.92 million) out of the country to support Islamist militants.

The financial intelligence agency, AUSTRAC, said in its annual report released this week that it had recorded a trebling of "suspicious matter reports" linked to the funding of overseas militant groups. It recorded up to 367 cases in 2014-15 from 118 a year earlier.

"The volume of terrorism financing in Australia is linked to the number of Australians traveling to join terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq," the report said.

Roughly A$53 million dollars, A$11 million in cash, was taken out of the country and used for individual attacks and operations, as well as for sustaining terrorist groups and paying family members who died in operations, AUSTRAC said.

Australia is on high alert for attacks by radicalized Muslims or by home-grown militants returning from fighting in the Middle East, having raised its threat level to "high" and unleashed a series of high-profile raids in major cities.

Security analysts have put the number of foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria, traveling from scores of countries around the world, in the thousands.

About 120 Australians are believed to be fighting with Islamic State and other militant groups in Iraq and Syria, with several believed by intelligence agencies to hold leadership positions in Islamic State.

Australian citizens now face up to a decade in prison for travel to overseas areas declared off-limits and the government has worked to halt the flow of funds overseas.

Canberra last year shut a money transfer business linked to the family of suspected Australian Islamic State fighter Khaled Sharrouf on suspicions it transferred up to A$20 million to foreign militants. Sharrouf was killed in Iraq earlier this year.

(Reporting by Matt Siegel; Editing by Michael Perry)