How terrorists get commissions for destabilizing actions

(To Nicolò Giordana)

Being able to determine today a univocal and certain definition of terrorism, and of everything that concerns it, is a very difficult practice. The same doctrine, in fact, debates strongly in this sense: in the international sphere generically, these acts are recognized as activities and behaviors that lead to a strong instability to the system and that must find an adequate sanction on the part of national laws.

A fundamental knot that is placed in the context of repression against terrorism is represented by the contrast to the financing of these activities, closing the inflows means in fact removing the oxygen and therefore preventing the expansion of the phenomenon. To this end the Italian legislator, with legislative decree 22 June 2007, n. 109, defines the financing of terrorism as "[...] any activity directed, by any means, to the collection, provisioning, intermediation, deposit, custody or provision of funds or economic resources, in any realized, intended to be, in whole or in part, used for the purpose of carrying out one or more offenses with the purpose of terrorism or in any case aimed at favoring the fulfillment of one or more crimes of terrorism as foreseen by the penal code, and this regardless of the actual use of funds and economic resources for the commission of the aforementioned crimes. "

One of the biggest problems for the fight against this funding is represented by the fact that terrorist organizations also use lawful sources and legitimate channels, placing particular emphasis on prevention action. Terrorism moves, in general, on two fronts: one national and one foreign, and we currently distinguish between the non-confessional and the religious matrix of the phenomenon. The first type is the one that often tends not to want to identify it with the term "terrorism" because of the fact that only to call that phenomenon with its real term poses a strong sense of anxiety. No newspaper has in fact identified the events that occurred in Milan on the day of the inauguration of Expo2015 with the term of terrorist acts, or high-profile episodes passed to the honors of national news. Yet this is clearly a domestic terrorism fueled by the current socio-economic context characterized by a strong precariousness, by now an uncontrollable illegal immigration and a usual challenge to the accomplishments of the great works. In these contexts the associations of the anarcho-insurrectionist area move - such as the Anarchist Federation Informane and the International Revolutionary Front - which present themselves as organized in a top-down structure which, through informal groups and autonomous self-managed basic units, practice a direct action or immediate and destructive attacks against the State and capital.

Today, however, the most important evolution of the terrorist threat is certainly represented by movements of Islamic religious origin that are also witnessed within the national territory, as is apparent from the intelligence activities conducted since the end of the years' 90 to 2007 and which have unearthed a branched network of al-Qaeda-affiliated cells in order to detect and prepare militants. The central Pakistani structure has experienced a progressive decline that has contributed to a proliferation of regional affiliated organizations - such as AQMI, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, AQAP, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, AQI, al-Qaeda in Iraq - or with an ideology that is not different from one another - it is the case of ISIS and Boko Haram. All these entities find a primary source of affiliation from the web through which massive propaganda is implemented, which aims to proselytize both the population of the territories within which these organizations branch off, and between Muslims in the West.

From the 2007 the activities of investigation and repression, also in our territory, has begun to focus on micro cells that apparently have no specific links with the main structures but that often rely on the internet. Today the jihadist threat in Italy moves parallel to the situation of geopolitical evolution of North Africa and the Middle East - especially with regard to Syria - and to the ever increasing diffusion of Salafi movements and home grown extremism, that is Muslims who were born or grew up in West.

The numerous investigations conducted to date have identified the existence of various means of support for terrorist causes. As mentioned at the beginning, the contributions are made through illegal activities but also lawful ones. Among the latter, the proceeds obtained from the performance of business activities regularly established and operating in various economic sectors were found, donations made by Muslims to charitable or welfare organizations of which a distorted use of part of the sums was sometimes noted, and the remittances of the emigrants who forwarded part of their earnings for the sustenance of their family members in the country of origin. These latter activities are carried out through the use of specific money transfer activities that have the ability to transfer even large sums of money in all areas of the world and at low costs. The Informal Value Transfer Systems also exist in these regular intermediaries, para-banking systems which are the alternative to the official channels for money handling and which can therefore easily manage illicit proceeds. These are service companies which, without specific authorizations, are favored by immigrant workers who do not have a residence permit - who would therefore not be able to comply with the rules regarding the identification of the party arranging the financial transaction - and who offer the their performance on relationships based on a necessary trust that arises from the need to be able to operate only in that mode.

Illicit activities, on the other hand, respond to a rather wide riverbed: from drug trafficking to the facilitation of illegal immigration, from counterfeiting of trademarks to the exploitation of irregular labor, from illegal collection of bets to the illegal exercise of financial activities. Another area in which the funding takes place to these organizations is represented by illegal immigration, the receipt of counterfeit documents and the receipt and confirmation of the brands.

In this context, the primary need is to identify the subject who orders transfers, a need which is difficult to wait for in the event that there is no active collaboration with the financial and banking sector in a context of prevention and which is implemented through the imposition by the State of obligations to identify, register and report suspicious transactions. The practical analysis of the reconstruction of the different pieces apparently lacking in relevant information content, in the general framework could prove essential for understanding terrorist financing but also for identifying leaders and members of the individual groups.

The funds can be collected in two contexts. Those recovered in the Italian territory can remain there - to feed terrorist activities that develop in the Nation [even if this modality is more akin to terrorist associations of anarchist-insurrectionist "local" matrix rather than Islamic terrorism] - or be transferred abroad , through money transfer or cash courier, to contribute to the consolidation of networks in other countries.

The other side of the coin is represented by the reverse process, that is the entry of funds collected abroad into Italy. In this case it is rare that the recipient of the proceeds is an individual terrorist: it is generally an organization active on the national territory. This modus operandi is less usual in Italy, since on the one hand, all flows are mapped in a highly effective form, and on the other hand it is easier to find resources already within the system. A final financing hypothesis is represented by foreign motion, that is from foreign sources that produce resources that feed terrorism abroad. This is the case that sees financing to jihadist organizations.

Four financing hypotheses materialize: funds found in Italy and transferred to organizations in the country, funds found in Italy and transferred abroad, funds found abroad and transferred to Italy and funds found abroad and transferred abroad. Of these possibilities the preventive and repressive action of the Italian authorities can be exercised only on the first three, the fourth requires indeed synergistic actions at the international level.

Once the suspicious flow has been traced, it is necessary to verify the material existence of the causal link between the money transfer and the economic support to the terrorist association, especially if the funds migrate abroad. Most often the financier does not cover up the resources allocated to terrorism but hides or conceals the last end.