[ISN] Terrorists grow fat on email scams

InfoSec News isn at c4i.org
Wed Sep 29 03:54:24 EDT 2004


By Jan Libbenga
28th September 2004 

Organisations such as al-Qaeda, ETA en PKK are copying Nigerian scams
to fund terrorism, two Dutch experts told Dutch daily De Telegraaf
this week.

Harald Koppe, head of the Dutch Unusual Transactions Reporting Office
(MOT), and Harry Jongbloed of the Dutch criminal investigation
department, say there is "strong evidence" from international crime
fighting organisations such as the FBI that at least some of the
terrorist funding is coming from advanced fee fraud (such as
Nigerian-style scam emails) and the sale of pirated software,
including CDs and DVDs. Using the internet to raise funds is fairly
risk free, experts say.

According to an Interpol report prepared for the US House Committee on
International Relations earlier this year, intellectual property
crimes are indeed a growing resource for terrorist groups from
Northern Ireland to the Arab world, including al-Qaeda and Hizbullah.  
Last year Interpol already called for a global crackdown
on software and music piracy.

A couple of months ago the Recording Industry Association of America
(RIAA) said it had evidence that illegal CD plants in Pakistan were
financed by international terrorist Dawood Ibrahim
(http://www.ustreas.gov/press/releases/js909.htm), although some
people have downplayed these claims as blatant propaganda.

But what about Nigerian scams? Could these seriously be a source of
funding for terrorism? Or are terrorists merely copying their tactics?

To date, solid evidence for such claims hasn't been presented
publicly. In fact, the supposed link between Nigerian scammers and
terrorists is still a matter of debate
(http://www.fraudaid.com/ScamSpeak/Nigerian/adaora/419ter.htm) among
experts. Some believe the cultural background of the perpetrators
makes terrorism funding highly improbable. Others, such as Rachel
Ehrenfeld, author of the book Funding Evil
(http://www.bonusbooks.com/bookpage.asp?BookID=1268), say that as 50
per cent of the Nigerian population is Muslim, there is an ideological
affiliation (http://edition.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0312/01/ltm.17.html)  
with some terrorist organisations. Hmm. A recent survey found that the
proportion of Nigerian Muslims who view the United States favorably
fell from more than 70 per cent to less than 40 per cent last year.

Ehrenfeld stresses that in many cases the collaboration is just
financially motivated. "People who buy fake Gucci bags and Swiss
watches sold by Nigerians on the sidewalks of Fifth Avenue in
Manhattan contribute to terrorism," she claims.

The Dutch Unusual Transactions Reporting Office (MOT) believes there
are some disturbing trends. Suspicious money transfers emanating from
the European countries these days can often be linked to West African
criminal networks, MOT concludes in its annual report
There also appear to be connections with the drugs trade.

Under the code name "Hyena", the Dutch criminal investigation
department managed to freeze a total of 1m in bank accounts linked to
Nigerian scams in the past couple of months, but it admits it is still
only a very small part.

More information about the ISN mailing list