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EDITIONS
 Friday, 28 September, 2001, 23:34 GMT 00:34 UK
Net closes on terror cash
Briefcase full of dollars
More countries have pledged their support to the international drive to choke off funding for alleged terrorist organisations in the wake of the atrocities in the United States.

The interests of corrupt people are too vast for all illegal transactions to be brought to the notice of judges

Swiss public prosecutor Bernard Bertossa

Italy, the Philippines and the United Arab Emirates are the latest governments to sign up to the US-led initiative.

The three countries have agreed to freeze the assets of 27 individuals and organizations named by the US authorities as being linked to Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda terror network.

The Saudi-born dissident remains the chief suspect for the 11 September attacks on Washington and New York.

The Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF), backed by most industrialised nations, has also set a 30 September deadline for the Philipines to take legislative action to combat money laundering or face sanctions.

But Philippines president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said she was satisfied with a draft bill on the issue, which is expected to be passed over the weekend.

Russia has also been told it must enact significant anti money-laundering legislation or face FATF counter measures.

Meanwhile, finance ministers from the Group of Seven (G7) countries have pledged tighter money laundering controls and more international co-operation in the fight against financial crime.

Experts have warned that it could take decades to unravel the terrorist's money trail - and only a tiny fraction of financial crime will ever be detected under current regulations.

Working together

Here is a round-up of international efforts to cut off the flow of terrorist funds:

  • United States president George Bush freezes assets and bank accounts of 27 individuals and organisations with alleged links to Bin Laden's terror network
  • The European Union freezes 100m euros (61.9m) in assets suspected of belonging to the Taleban, as the European Commission reviews its system of blocking suspicious accounts
  • Australia freezes assets of the 27 organizations on the US blacklist
  • United Arab Emirates, Italy and the Philippines also adopt the US blacklist, while Philippines legislators rush through anti-money laundering legislation
  • Yugoslavia's parliament passes a bill to prevent money laundering by criminal organisations
  • The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) issues a directive to all banks to freeze the accounts of the militant outfits Harkat-ul-Mujahadeen and Al-Rashid Trust, which were listed by the US as having links to Bin Laden
  • The Cook Islands, which has been linked with money laundering in the past, says it hopes to have a financial intelligence unit in place "soon"
  • In Switzerland, the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) says it is helping central banks and regulators cross-check lists of suspected terrorists
  • In the Czech Republic a special team of investigators is set to up to investigate suspicious financial transactions
  • Romania sets up a committee to freeze assets suspected of being linked to Bin Laden.

Indonesia's central bank has said it has no power to comply with US demands to freeze assets linked to international terrorists.

While the tiny Pacific island of Nauru, a renowned offshore tax-haven, has also come under fresh scrutiny.

Nauru is thought to operate about 400 off-shore banks, all registered to one government mail box.

In the past the island has been named as an outpost for money laundering by Russian criminal groups.

According to the AFP news agency, half of the banks registered in Nauru appear to be subsidiaries of major American banks, while a third appear to be of Middle Eastern origin.

"Almost impossible"

Those on the frontline of the fight against financial crime have warned that it could take decades to unravel the terrorist money trail.

Swiss public prosecutor Bernard Bertossa
Bertossa: has led calls for more powers
Swiss public prosecutor Bernard Bertossa, who has led calls for greater powers to fight financial crime, has said it will be "almost impossible" to identify assets belonging to terrorists.

"There is obviously an organization that finances these criminals, but there aren't any accounts with Bin Laden's name on them," Mr Bertossa said in an interview with Swiss radio.

Mr Bertossa said that, in a wider sense, the scale of corruption and the sums involved made it impossible for the authorities to identify and prosecute more than a tiny fraction of financial criminals.

"The interests of corrupt people are too vast for all illegal transactions to be brought to the notice of judges."

Bin Laden speaks?

Renaud Van Ruymbeke, a member of the French judiciary's financial crime squad, said criminal networks were "spoiled for choice" when it came to laundering money in Europe.

The Swiss authorities have pledged to join international efforts to shut off the source of terrorist funding.

But the Swiss finance minister Kaspar Villigier said there was "no indication that Bin Laden and his organisation have any funds in this country."

Meanwhile, according to reports in a Pakistan newspaper, Bin Laden has said US-led attempts to freeze bank accounts linked to his al-Qaeda network, will have "no effect".

"It will not make any difference," Bin Laden was quoted as saying in an interview with Urdu language newspaper Ummat.

"By the grace of God, al-Qaeda has more than three different alternative financial networks," Bin Laden reportedly told the newspaper.

Bin Laden is alleged to have said al-Qaeda had "hundreds of thousands" of "well-educated youths", who were "well aware of the alternatives."

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Rory Cellan Jones
reports on money laundering via Bureaux de Changes

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24 Sep 01 | Americas
24 Sep 01 | Business
19 Sep 01 | Business
18 Sep 01 | Business
23 Sep 01 | Business
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