Fresh terrorism-financing risks seen from crypto

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NATIONAL Security Adviser Hermogenes C. Esperon, Jr. said cryptocurrencies and new digital channels open up new risks for the government to manage as it monitors the financing of terrorism.

In a keynote address Tuesday at the fifth Counter-Terrorism Financing (CTF) Summit hosted by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) in Taguig, Mr. Esperon said: “The emergence or proliferation of virtual and cryptocurrencies adds to our dilemma. This is where we seek the expertise and good practices of our counterparts to improve on our system, as this is a relatively new domain in our jurisdiction.”

He said backers have been using social networking sites to fund terrorist activity.

“Our law enforcement continues its efforts to disrupt these financial networks even before funds are moved or transferred… Cutting off their lifeline is a crucial step to undermine their capabilities and frustrate their ability to carry out terrorist attacks.,” Mr. Esperon said.

In Southern Mindanao, illegal organizations use kidnapping for ransom and extortion to raise funds, according to Mr. Esperon. This supplements funding from family members, friends, and non-profit organizations, he added.

“As you know, in 2017, we experienced the most brutal onslaught of terrorism in our country in the siege of Marawi. Terrorism financing was integral (for) foreign terrorists in staging such acts and sustain it for a long time,” he said.

Mr. Esperon said oil smuggling was the primary source of funding for ISIS, while terrorist and criminal groups in Afghanistan raise money from opium.

“We do not want this to happen here in the Philippines or in the region,” he said.

In his speech, AMLC Executive Director Mel Georgie B. Racela said that regional cooperation and collaboration is expected to improve the effectiveness of enforcement work.

“For instance, the AMLC has referred 620 intelligence briefs and has conducted nine risk assessment and strategic studies, since 2017,” he said, noting that the council has frozen assets of over P1 billion between January 2018 and July 2019, including P52 million pesos in suspected funding for terrorism.

AMLC is hosting the fifth CTF Summit in partnership with the Indonesian financial intelligence unit, known as PPATK and the Australian financial intelligence agency AUSTRAC. — Luz Wendy T. Noble