Organized crime underpins major conflicts and terrorism globally

By
Maxwell Awumah, GNA

Hohoe (V/R), Oct. 1, GNA – A new report warns
that the illegal exploitation and taxation of gold, oil and other natural
resources is overtaking traditional sources of ‘threat finance’, such as
kidnapping for ransom and drug trafficking, which fund terrorist and militant
groups.

The World Atlas of Illicit Flows, compiled by
INTERPOL, RHIPTO – a Norwegian UN-collaborating centre – and the Global
Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, provides the first
consolidated global overview of their significance in conflicts worldwide, and
this was copied to the Ghana News Agency.

It said of the USD 31.5 billion in illicit
flows generated annually in conflict areas, 96 per cent goes to organized
criminal groups, with this money helping fuel violent conflict.

Based on public reports and criminal
intelligence, the World Atlas identifies more than 1,000 routes used for
smuggling and other illicit flows.

Exploitation of natural resources

The illicit exploitation of
natural/environmental resources, such as gold, minerals, diamonds, timber, oil,
charcoal and wildlife, is the single-largest overall category of threat finance
to conflicts today, estimated at 38 per cent share of illicit flows to armed
groups in conflict.

It said when incomes from these natural
resources are combined with their illicit taxation and extortion (26 per cent)
by the same non-state armed groups, the figure becomes as high as 64 per cent.

It added 38 per cent – environmental crime,
including illegal exploitation of oil, minerals and gold, 28 per cent-drugs, 26
per cent-illegal taxation, extortion, confiscation and looting, 3per
cent-external donations, 3 per cent-money extorted through kidnapping for
ransom, 1per cent-charcoal and 1per cent -antiquities, according to the report.

“The huge volume of illicit money being
generated through the exploitation of natural resources is of great concern.
Criminal networks and their activities fuel violent conflict which in turn
undermines the rule of law,” said Jürgen Stock, INTERPOL Secretary General.

“The report provides a new impetus for our
continued efforts to stem these illicit flows and combat the threat
transnational organized crime poses to peace, development and security,” he
added.

Christian Nellemann, Head of the RHIPTO
Center, said “Combating organized crime must be considered a significant
factor in conflict prevention and resolution if we are to become successful in
securing peace.”

“In many instances, criminal groups, some
closely connected to political elites, may have a vested interest in renewed
and continued armed struggle to ensure their dominance over natural resources
and trade routes.”

Responding to criminal flows and markets

It said of 1,113 UNSC resolutions passed
between 2000 and 2017, 35 per cent mention forms of crime, and in each of the
last five years, more than 60 per cent of the UNSC resolutions have mandated a
response to criminal flows and markets.

Mark Shaw, Director of the Global Initiative
Against Transnational Organized Crime, said “Organized crime is increasingly
undermining peace, security and development.”  “It has become a global phenomenon,
represented in a confluence of conflicts from Africa, to the Middle East and
the Americas, and showing a distinct linkage to the response to international
terrorism.”

Strengthening enforcement, information sharing
and analysis is essential in order to prevent, disrupt and defeat violent armed
groups and the organized-criminal actors that create an environment of impunity
and instability.

For the seven main extremist groups of insurgents
and terrorists the combined funding totals about USD 1–1.39 billion a year.

Illicit smuggling may also include trans
shipments in violation of UN Sanctions.

It said in 2017 some 40,000 members of the
Taliban received an estimated income of USD 75–95 million from taxation –
particularly of drugs, land and agricultural produce – and from donations from
abroad.

In mid-2017, ISIS/Daesh made an estimated USD
10 million a month. This figure is 98% down from their high of USD 549–1,693
million in 2014. In all likelihood, the group has considerable reserves of an
unknown size.

The merged al-Qaeda groups HTS in Syria and
JNIM in the Sahel make an estimated USD 18–35 million and USD 5–35 million
respectively, from illegal taxation, donations, kidnapping for ransom,
extortion, smuggling of counterfeit cigarettes, drugs and illegal taxation.

It said Al-Shabaab received an estimated USD
20 million, half from the illicit charcoal trade and the rest from other forms
of taxation.

Boko Haram made an estimated USD 5–10 million,
mainly from taxation, bank robberies, donations from other terrorist groups and
kidnapping for ransom.

GNA

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