Economic financing of terrorism

Peter Goodspeed, National Post 
Published: Friday, May 30, 2008


Canadian businesses can battle Islamic radicals by helping to eliminate the financial infrastructure that fuels international terrorism, says the counter-terrorism director in the Israeli prime minister’s office.

Ehud Levi, a former colonel in Israeli military intelligence, told a meeting of the Economic Club of Toronto yesterday Islamic radical groups are pumping billions of dollars a year into economies around the world to wage a conflict with the West.

“But terrorism is only a very small proportion of their strategic plans,” he said.

“The most important thing for radical Islamic groups is to reach their goals using the civilian infrastructure.”

They are building schools and creating mosques and Islamic centres that can then be used to propagate their views.

“Every year radical Islamic groups are sending billions and billions of dollars, from Saudi Arabia and Iran, to build this infrastructure,” he said.

“We try to use force to deal with radical Islamic groups, but we are not dealing with the main problem, the infrastructure, at all. We deal only with a very small portion of the problem.”

Individual businessmen, bankers and financial institutions can wage a more effective battle against extremism by simply interrupting the flow of money to radical Islamic movements.

“If tomorrow morning they would have less money, they will be less powerful and for the long run they will have less ability to launch terrorist activity.”

Mr. Levi cited the case of Deutsche Bank in Germany, which last year decided to stop doing business with Iran for fear of U. S. economic sanctions.

The bank ordered Tehran to withdraw $3-billion because it didn’t want to see a German bank being accused of helping Iran develop a nuclear bomb.

Fifty banks worldwide have followed suit, making it difficult for Iranian businesses to obtain letters of credit internationally.

“To build a nuclear bomb is not like committing a suicide attack,” he said.

“You cannot transfer $5,000 using a money changer. You have to purchase equipment. You need a letter of credit from a bank and if the banks will not give a letter of credit they will not do it.”

“Iran is very vulnerable,” he added.

“If you have billions and billions of dollars and can’t find a bank or financial institution in the world that will keep your money or make any transaction, then you are a very poor man, because the money is not effective.”

“The importance of this tool [economic warfare against terrorism] is you are not killing anybody. You are not even using one bullet, but it is very, very effective.”

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