Last month, the US-led coalition stepped up military attacks on Islamic State’s (IS) industrial base, striking more than 100 tanker trucks used to transport oil that generates more than
US$1 million a day to finance the terrorist group, and the UN Security Council adopted a unanimous resolution condemning IS and urging countries to suppress terrorism financing.
It’s no silver bullet, but cutting off its cash flow is absolutely critical to winning the war on terrorism.
IS employs an estimated 30,000 fighters reportedly paid
US$350 to US$500 a month. That is a monthly bill of US$10 million already, let alone the money needed to purchase weapons, develop training camps, transportation, and much more.
The terrorists think quite broadly about funding their operations. A terrorism expert, Professor Louise Shelley, pointed out that Islamic State’s diverse revenue streams include the smuggling of oil, antiques and illicit cigarettes, human trafficking, and hostage-taking for profit and extortion. A recent report by the US Treasury Department also noted terrorism financing by drug trafficking, smuggling of counterfeit cigarettes and weapons.
Suppressing these different forms of illicit trade is crucial to disrupting, degrading and ultimately defeating IS. And it takes international cooperation, top-level political commitment, and a heightened sense of urgency to achieve it.
This is a good tactic that should be wholeheartedly adopted by Hong Kong in its fight against triads and organised crime groups. Their criminal operations are also financed by illicit trade, including human trafficking, pirated DVDs, and smuggling of cigarettes, counterfeit goods and fuels. Killing such a lucrative cash flow is critical to Hong Kong’s fight against organised crime.
Hong Kong’s police and customs have been doing their part, and their enforcement efforts should be recognised. More cross-agency and cross-border cooperation will enhance law enforcement’s ability to dismantle the organised crime behind illicit trade.We need Hong Kong’s top-level political commitment to declare a war on illicit trade and organised crime, which exploits teenagers, harms community safety, steals taxpayers’ money, and sabotages Hong Kong’s reputation for trade integrity and rule of law. Hong Kong needs to avoid excessive regulation and taxation which risk fueling illicit trade.
Meanwhile, it’s not just the government’s job – it’s up to everyone who cares about Hong Kong to play a part in the campaign against organised crime, and we can all do this by rejecting, reporting and condemning all forms of illicit trade.
Jeff Herbert,Tai Po