KUALA LUMPUR: The overall terrorism financing (TF) risk for non-profit organisations in eight Asia-Pacific nations has been assessed as medium scale.
The risk assessment report, launched at the Counter-Terrorism Financing Summit here is based on a regional assessment of the TF threat environment, NPO sector vulnerabilities and associated consequences of misuse.
“While the regional risk assessment on TF in 2016 assessed NPOs as high risk, it noted there were fewer cases of NPO misuse than expected,” the report said.
Jointly launching the research publication, ministers representing financial intelligence agencies from Australia, Indonesia and host nation Malaysia, hailed the ground breaking work, which included analyses from the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, and new partners Brunei and New Zealand.
Australian Minister for Justice and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Counter-Terrorism Michael Keenan said the annual CTF Summit, now in its third year, was continuing to make strong advances in addressing terrorism threats across the region.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the risk assessment recommended that countries should actively target the small sub-set of NPOs most vulnerable to terrorism financing and help those organisations to protect themselves from criminal abuse.
Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto said that his government had introduced targetted measures to deregister high risk charities and more closely monitor the NPO sector to mitigate the risks they face.
Indonesia is confident its risk level would be re-evaluated to a lower level in the future through great awareness, collaborative financial intelligence efforts and education of the sector.
The assessment also recommends further work be undertaken by participating countries to develop “red flag” indicators of high risk NPO activity to help financial institutions and law enforcement agencies to better detect and respond quickly to suspicious behaviour.
The level of misuse of NPOs is relatively low across most of the region. While intelligence suggests misuse is potentially more than the limited number of investigations indicates, NPOs are probably not currently a primary source of funds for terrorism.
Indonesia is assessed as high threat, while Australia, Malaysia and the Philippines are medium. Brunei and New Zealand are assessed as low.
Indonesia NPOs are linked in many investigations to larger terrorist groups and appear to have been a significant vehicle for financial support of terrorists and terrorist networks.
Based on Suspicious Transaction Reports (STRs),between 2014 and 2016, only 90 STRs were reported across the region forsuspected TF involving an NPO.
It was led by Indonesia (29 reports), Australia (27), Thailand (18) and Malaysia (14). New Zealand, Brunei (consistent with each country’s low terrorism risk profile) and the Philippines received none.
“A number of factors may explain the low number of NPO-related investigations across the rest of the region and the most likely reason is that NPOs are not a major source of funding for terrorism in many regional countries, “ the report said, adding that national counter-terrorism strategies are another factor.
Australia, Malaysia and Thailand also focus attention on disrupting and dismantling individual terrorists or terrorist networks, rather than targeting NPOs, unless required.