Holis­tic ap­proach needed to seize con­tra­band and stop ter­ror­ist fund­ing

The National - News - - NEWS | EMIRATES - NICK WEB­STER

The black mar­ket in wildlife traf­fick­ing and trade in to­bacco are desta­bil­is­ing re­gions and pro­long­ing civil wars around the world, economists said.

A chang­ing dy­namic of mod­ern war­fare and its con­nec­tion with the boom­ing trade in boot­leg mar­kets was dis­cussed at a global sum­mit in Abu Dhabi, hosted by The Econ­o­mist mag­a­zine.

The Chang­ing Char­ac­ter of War Cen­tre at the Univer­sity of Ox­ford was es­tab­lished after 9/11 to gain a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the evolv­ing dy­namic of mod­ern war­fare and how it fits in with il­licit trade mar­kets.

“Cross-bor­der tribes in this re­gion have long smug­gled con­tra­band to pay for com­bat,” said Dr An­nette Idler, the cen­tre’s di­rec­tor of stud­ies. “That is what is hap­pen­ing in Syria, Le­banon, Tur­key and the rest of Europe and the world.

“We are now see­ing this be­ing re­shaped by cur­rent trends. ISIS, for ex­am­ple, has grown to op­er­ate trans-na­tion­ally and has been us­ing global il­licit trade mar­kets to fund and fa­cil­i­tate their op­er­a­tions.

“These crim­i­nals are now sub­con­tract­ing com­puter hack­ers and rebels are work­ing to­gether with other mili­tia and drug traffickers to fund their com­bat and fa­cil­i­tate re­gional in­sta­bil­ity.”

The Abu Dhabi event brought to­gether del­e­gates and ex­perts from govern­ment, law-en­force­ment agen­cies and the pri­vate sec­tor to ad­dress the root causes of il­le­gal trade and ways to bat­tle it.

It fo­cused on new tech-nol­ogy, tax­a­tion, le­gal loop­holes, free­trade zones, e-com­merce and re­gional so­cio-eco­nomic in­sta­bil­i­ties that have pre­sented new op­por­tu­ni­ties for coun­ter­feit­ers, in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty crimes and other forms of il­licit trade.

“Ter­ror­ist groups fund­ing their ac­tions through il­licit trade is only one part of the big­ger pic­ture,” Dr Idler said. “There is a huge profit be­hind or­gan­ised crime but it is more nu­anced than that.

“Groups need to pay their sol­diers and to buy their weapons. They are thriv­ing in a war econ­omy.

“In Colom­bia, the co­caine trade has helped fuel con­flict, as has opium in Myan­mar. Sierra Leone has en­dured years of con­flict funded by the di­a­mond trade.

“The lines be­tween le­git­i­mate trade and the il­licit mar­kets are of­ten blurred, and there is a Robin Hood im­age of some of these war­lords op­er­at­ing in com­bat zones.”

Ex­perts said il­licit trade over­lapped, with seizures by bor­der con­trols un­cov­er­ing a mix­ture of con­tra­band that could in­clude peo­ple, wildlife, drugs, al­co­hol, weapons and cig­a­rettes. Wildlife is an in­creas­ing com­mod­ity in fund­ing ter­ror­ist ac­tiv­ity.

A de­ci­sion by the Chi­nese govern­ment to lift a 25-year ban on the use of tiger bone and rhino horn in medicine was de­scribed as “wor­ry­ing”, said David Luna, a for­mer US govern­ment spe­cial­ist in ter­ror­ism and na­tional se­cu­rity, and now pres­i­dent of Luna Global Net­works.

“We’ve seen high-level roy­als and gov­ern­ments come out and talk about the im­por­tance of stop­ping an­i­mal traf­fick­ing and there has been an in­crease in in­ter­na­tional co-op­er­a­tion but there are chal­lenges,” Mr Luna said.

“Just 10 years ago rhi­nos were be­ing clipped at a rate of about 20 a year. That rose to 1,400 two years ago, it shows how prof­itable it has come.”

Mul­ti­lat­eral trade in­sti­tu­tions such as the World Trade Or­gan­i­sa­tion are fight­ing back.

“Il­licit trade is a global is­sue and its breadth and scale are grow­ing,” said Raed Safadi, a chief eco­nomic ad­viser for the Dubai Govern­ment.

“Il­licit net­works ex­ploit the tech­no­log­i­cal, fi­nan­cial and com­mu­ni­ca­tion in­no­va­tions of glob­al­i­sa­tion. The start­ing point is to recog­nise that il­licit trade is a trade bar­rier. We need a holis­tic ap­proach, not a frag­mented ap­proach.”

Reuters

Wildlife traf­fick­ing and the black mar­ket in to­bacco pro­long war and desta­bilise re­gions, economists say

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