Maman’s the word

I know that AML and CFT go together.  I’m not convinced that they belong together, but I am swimming against the tide, which seems to favour putting all financial crime into the same category.  And so I am careful to make sure that my training always acknowledges terrorist financing as well as my one true love, money laundering.  As I see it, the most frightening aspect of terrorist financing is how little money is needed to do so much damage – and therefore, from the MLRO’s perspective, how fiendishly difficult it is to spot.

As an example, we have this recent case.  On 28 September 2017, Frenchwoman Nathalie Haddadi was found guilty of terrorist financing and sentenced to two years in prison.  Her son, Belabbas Bounaga, was radicalised while serving a prison sentence for drug dealing, and on his release in 2015 he went to stay with his father in Algeria.  From there he travelled to Malaysia, and eventually went to Syria.  While he was in Algeria and Malaysia, his mum (who has a job in marketing) sent him money – thousands of euros.  She sent most of it to pay, Belabbas told her, for his medical treatment in Malaysia.  She told the court she knew nothing of his plans to go to Syria; the first she heard of it was when someone called her from there in 2016 to tell her that her son had died a martyr, at the age of twenty-one.  The judge said that she was lying, and “without your substantial help he would not have been able to reach Syria so easily and fight with Islamic State – you financed a terrorist organisation”.

Now I have no idea whether Haddadi knew of her son’s desire to fight for Daesh, or whether she supported him or begged him to come home.  But I do know that any bank or money transfer business sending a few thousand euros from a concerned (and gainfully employed) mum in France to an unwell son in Algeria or Malaysia would probably not look twice at the transactions.  So insignificant, and yet so devastating.

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8 Responses to Maman’s the word

  1. Claire says:

    It’s a hard one. Unless there is proof she knew, you can’t really accuse her. Any mother would do anything to help their child. Any mother would always trust their child by default. I’m imagining the young man got into drugsdealing through peer pressure. Not saying it’s right. But hang out a bit in those social housing neighbourhoods, and you’d be more surprised to hear about someone making it despite growing up there. I cannot imagine the heartbreak of a mother finding out her child is a terrorist. I’ve seen the images of the mothers in Molenbeek (Brussels) after the terrorist attack on Zaventem. It’s devastating. More should be invested to stop radicalisation. Putting mothers in prison won’t change that.

  2. CDWOS says:

    If I am interpreting this correctly one has to remember that in France as a generalisation you are guilty unless and until you can prove your innocence. In Britain and the British Isles the approach is that you are innocent until proven guilty…………a very significant difference in thinking, approach and culture that must inevitably lead to very different outcomes as we see here. We are left with the impression that there has been overly harsh sentencing or a miscarriage of justice unless the Court knows something we don’t!

    • Indeed, the French and British legal approaches are different. The point I was hoping to make is that even if something is judged to be terrorist financing, even with the benefit of that outcome and hindsight, it would be difficult for the MLRO to look back at the transactions involved and say, yes, I can see it now. I don’t think you would see it, even with confirmation. And so the chances of seeing it in advance are minuscule.

  3. Roy McCarthy says:

    I believe the classic on terrorist financing was the 9/11 attacks. The funding was so piecemeal and insignificant that only lengthy forensic work after the event pieced it all together. It would have been almost impossible to detect it as it occurred.

  4. CDWOS says:

    As has been said before their profile as individuals and their activity (or lack of it makes) makes them ‘invisible’ and of course they are the polar opposite to the money launderer (largest amount out of the system in the shortest timeframe. How can anyone in the finance industry spot them other than face to face!!! That is why I have never understood the authorities lumping the fight against terrorism in with the fight against money launderers. The unpaid policemen (financial institutions) are virtually doomed to failure before they start.

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