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Wednesday, 17 October, 2001, 03:14 GMT 04:14 UK
Conference targets terror funds
Bank notes from a variety of countries
The issue of money laundering is gaining currency
By the BBC's Mike Fox in Montreal

An international conference on money laundering in Montreal has been told by a top lawyer how the industrialised world needs to monitor the creation of charities, which can be used to funnel money to extremist groups.

A session on the backing of terrorist groups was organised in response to last month's attacks on the United States, as the events have focused international attention on the issue of money laundering.

One of the main speakers in the debate on terrorism was lawyer Jack Blum, who has spent many years investigating money laundering activities for the US government.

He also chairs a United Nations committee investigating government figures who steal money. He said he expects investigations to show that much of the funding for al-Qaeda comes through Dubai, which he describes as a hole in the financial network.

Charitable deeds

Mr Blum called on the US and other industrialised countries to look closely at which organisations are allowed to become charities, and urged the international community to come down hard on banks which handle terrorists' funds.

President Bush pounds his fist on the podium as he announces the signing of a bill
President Bush: Freezing the assets of terrorists
"Now you have to understand that every banker who touched this money - if he did it knowingly or did it by putting a bag over his head and acting like he didn't know about it - is a co-conspirator and ought to be treated as such," said Mr Blum.

He alleged that many of the people involved in backing the 11 September attacks were probably once connected to the failed Bank of Credit and Commerce International, which allowed Middle Eastern countries to support extremist fighters in the region.

And he said that the world should force Dubai to reform, as offshore havens in the Caribbean have been forced to do.

Collaboration

Opening the conference, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police's commissioner, Giuliano Zaccardelli, said that since criminal organisations have gone global, law enforcement had to do likewise.

"In a way sometimes I'm envious of how (criminal groups) collaborate and work," he said.

"To succeed, we not only have to adapt some of those strategies, we have to do it even better."

There are signs, according to John Mair, an RCMP investigator, that some of these countries are responding more positively since last month.

But so far there have not been any publicised successes in tracking down the financial roots to those involved in the attacks.

That may be an indication of the size of the task, or reluctance by investigators to reveal how much they know already.

See also:

12 Oct 01 | Business
US tightens 'terror cash' laws
10 Oct 01 | Business
UK is 'money launderers' paradise'
07 Oct 01 | Americas
US 'success' in terror funds search
28 Sep 01 | Business
Net closes on terror cash
19 Sep 01 | UK Politics
UK targets terrorist finances
19 Sep 01 | Business
Following the money trail
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