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Funding Terror at Car Boot Sales

27 June 2019

£100 + Billion is the scale of money laundering on the UK annually according to the National Crime Agency (NCA). Their very own video talks of how money laundering is key to serious and organised crime gangs as they procure and sell weapons, drugs and people, through human trafficking.

What many people don’t realise is that there is a clear link between serious and organise crime and terror.  Terror has to be financed somehow and the cry for many years was ‘follow the money’ when it came to disrupting terrorist activities. 

Aimen Dean, an ex-British Spy who was in Al Qaeda for 10 years says, “As long as there are governments and corporations willing to pay ransom money to terrorists then the cycle of terror will continue unabated. It is the dilemma facing many employers and governments alike: do they let their citizens die and lose face in front of their respective constituencies, or do they pay millions in ransom to the kidnappers and end up, unwittingly, financing global terrorism.”

That terrorist money is often laundered through legitimate bank accounts, put into property or again according to Dean, collected for and held within charitable organisations.

This is not just the remit of Islamist extremists, nor is it new. The individual who was allegedly the Provisional IRA Chief of Staff, Thomas "Slab" Murphy, who described himself as a simple farmer, was regarded by police on both sides of the Irish border as the head of a huge multi-million pound smuggling empire. In 2004, the BBC's Underworld Rich List named him as the wealthiest smuggler in the UK. 

Looking to the current Irish Republican threat, the New IRA, who have admitted to the recent killing of the journalist Lyra McKee during protests in Londonderry, were formed in 2012 following a merger between groups including the Real IRA and Republican Action Against Drugs (RAAD).

The Real IRA was listed in a study by Forbes Israel in 2014 as the 9th richest terror group in the world, sandwiched between Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram with a £32 million annual turnover.   This money comes from extortion, smuggling, drug running, robbery and other organised criminal activities.  These activities will have been taken over by the New IRA who have largely the same leadership. The link between serious and organised crime and terror couldn’t be clearer.

Coming even closer to home, National Action, Scottish Dawn and NS131 are all recently proscribed extreme right-wing groups in Great Britain, their funding comes from somewhere and that somewhere is most likely to be extortion, Craigslist and car boot supplied counterfeit cigarettes, CDs and DVDs, illegally imported booze, drug supply and prostitution.

Putting this into context with activities that we could all easily come across, the counterfeited CDs and DVDs at the local car boot, the knock off cigarettes and tobacco being supplied through Craigslist, the cheap diesel that has come from filtered red diesel, the extortion money, through ransomware or good old fashioned protection rackets, the massage parlours taxing the trafficked prostitutes; all of these activities have links to organised crime and with many it would be ‘reasonable to suspect’ that some of the organised crime gangs have links to terrorist organisations or individuals with terrorist links.

It is establishing that ‘reasonable to suspect’ that funding could be for a proscribed organisation that takes any investigation into the realms of the new Terrorism Act.  It is vital that the highest standards are applied in any and all investigative processes and this is merely one reason why.

The responsibility for investigating Serious and Organised Crime in the UK lies with the NCA and the responsibility for investigating terror lies with the Security Services and MET Police Counter Terror unit. 

So, who has responsibility for investigating the funding of terror through serious and organised crime? The answer is it lies with both organisations and if it is terror the lead is with the MET, if the impetus is serious and organised crime it is the NCA.

History has many examples a boundary leads to things falling between it, however, it can also allow disruptive action to be taken through the most appropriate avenue for the evidence available. Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy was eventually jailed for agricultural tax offences rather than terror offenses.  The link can go both ways and in this case, the good guys won, eventually.