Daesh finances, stolen banks, and American fears
ISIS is reportedly also selling oil to customers at very low prices to finance its war machine and collects taxes (Image: AFP/File).
U.S. authorities are deeply concerned about the financial capabilities ofISIS (Daesh) and are pressing Arab banks to prevent the jihadi group from channeling funds through their systems, the secretary-general of the Union of Arab Banks said Monday.
“The U.S. Treasury is very concerned about the funding of the Islamic State [ISIS]. The Americans realize that this terrorist organization needs constant funding. Unlike Al-Qaeda, which may require a small amount of money to conduct specific operations, ISIS controls large areas inIraq and Syria and has even issued its own identity cards,” Wissam Fattouh told The Daily Star.
He added that the international community is also alarmed by the fact that ISIS controls areas where some commercial banks are located, and therefore has access to their coffers. The jihadi group is estimated to have stolen hundreds of millions of dollars from banks in Mosul, Iraq, alone.
ISIS is reportedly also selling oil to customers at very low prices to finance its war machine and collects taxes from residents now living under its control.
But Fattouh assured that the Arab banking sector has taken all the necessary measures to prevent ISIS and other terrorist organizations from channeling money through the legal financial systems.
“The Arab banks conduct due diligence on every suspicious transaction and are following the classic rule of ‘know your customer and even the customer of the customer,’” he explained. He added that Arab banks have even taken new measures which authorities in the U.S. requested, in order to demonstrate that the Arabs are keen to keep the balance sheets clean.
However, Fattouh noted that ISIS money is still circulated around the globe despite all the tough measures adopted by all international banks, and felt that more could be done by other authorities.
“It is not the duty of commercial banks to chase the movement of cash outside the financial systems, but rather it is the duty of the police and authorities to track this movement,” he said.
He stressed that banks can only chase suspicious money and accounts if they go through their particular systems and channels.
“The authorities should tighten security at airports and all entry points to check if any individual is trying to smuggle large amounts of cash to ISIS,” Fattouh said.
He added that the U.S. authorities have taken Arab banks’ suggestions into consideration and seemed pleased with the measures adopted by them.
“What matters most to the U.S. financial authorities is that countries are updating the legal systems and laws concerning money laundering and terrorist funding,” Fattouh said.
He noted that Lebanon’sSpecial Investigation Commission investigates all suspicious accounts and transactions, and coordinates with the prosecution office to lift banking secrecy on any suspicious account.
Fattouh emphasized that Arab banks are still better off than many leading international institutions when it comes to compliance with the U.S.’ anti-terrorism measures.
“The U.S. has fined several leading American and European banks which breached sanctions while most of the Arab banks were spared such measures,” he said.
Fattouh added that Lebanese and Arab banks also fully comply with the blacklists issued by authorities in the U.S. and Europe.
“Banks have no other choice but to fully comply with these lists. Any person mentioned in this list will be denied any access to the financial system,” he said.
Fattouh said that all banks around the world will eventually have to comply with the blacklist issued by the U.S.’ Office of Foreign Asset Control. “The U.S. sends this [OFAC] list to all the banks around the world and demands that this list becomes immediately effective – and the Americans are quite serious about this measure.”
Fattouh said Lebanese banks like to check the OFAC blacklist in addition to those issued by the EU and United Nations to guarantee that any transaction with banks abroad will not be blocked by American lenders.
He insisted that the U.S. has never raised the issue of Lebanon’s banking-secrecy law during its discussions with Lebanese officials and bankers.
The United States’ priority, he said, was that Lebanese banks are ensuring that American nationals are registered to pay U.S. taxes while residing in Lebanon.
By: Osama Habib
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