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Investigating the Grey Areas of the Chinese Communities in Southeast Asia

Arnaud Leveau


Links between Organized Crime and terrorist networks

Philippe Migaux

Texte intégral

1I would like to tell you a word about what I think of the links between Organized Crime and terrorist networks. Because a lot of people pretend there are strong links between Organised Crime and terrorist networks, which is absolutely wrong. Both are professional, but they have not the same goals. Terrorist organizations can receive the help of petty delinquent groups, but not share their activities with organized criminal networks.

2First idea, for discussing about that, we have to come back to some definitions of the problem. Even for words as simple as terrorism or crime, definitions are not very clear.

What is terrorism? It’s a strategy and it’s a method

3First, terrorism is a strategy: If you are a state and want to fight against an other state, you make war. If you are an organization that has the support of part of the population and the control of part of the territory, you can practise guerrilla. If you are just a group that has no support of the population and no territory control, you only do terrorism.

4Secondly, terrorism is a method. A sure way to threaten population for pushing the authorities to negotiate. It is true that terrorism was used, by organised criminal organizations or by guerrilla movements, but at very specific moments.

5Remember what happened in Colombia in 1986. At this moment, a treaty of extradition was negotiated between the USA and Colombia, aiming particularly the drug leaders of the Cali Cartel. But these people were in connection with the most important guerrilla group, called the “Columbian Revolutionary Armed Forces” (CRAF), that was paid for protecting the cocaine laboratories. The leaders of the Cali Cartel tried to negotiate with the government for preventing the final signature of the Extradition treaty, they even proposed to reimburse themselves the amount of the Columbian international debt. Of course, authorities refused. So the Cali cartel adopted a last strategy to force the government to negotiate. They used the CRAF militants to launch terrorist actions. At first, a mass slaughter operation, with hiding a bomb in a plane of Avianca Airlines, that killed more than 130 passengers and crew members. Then a more targeted action, with the assault of the Court of Justice in Bogota and the assassination of more than 30 judges, most of them working on drug cases. But it was a failure and the treaty was adopted by the parliament.

6Remember what happened in Italy in 1991. After operation “Mano Pulite” (clean hands) in 1993, when hundreds of Cosa Nostra members were arrested by the security forces. To assassinate Italian judges, as it had been commited in the past years, was no longer enough to stop the judicial investigations. So Toto RINA, the leader of Cosa Nostra, ordered to launch spectacular operations in the main towns of Italy. Rome and Florence were targeted. But it had for main result to strengthen the support of the population in favour of the struggle against the Organized Crime. And Toto RINA was finally arrested some months later, isolated in his Sicilian hideout.

7What do these two examples prove? It shows that the use of terrorist methods by Organized Crime is a demonstration of deep weakness. Organized Crime is part of the society. It doesn’t want to change it, it wants to grow up inside. And to integrate its illegal revenues inside the legal economic system. So, its main interest is a quiet domestic situation, where it can slowly corrupt and infiltrate the levels of power. That’s not the choice of terrorist movements that want to create chaos inside a country, because they want to create a new society.

8Second idea, I would like to explain you how Jihadi groups use criminal methods to finance their actions. The international Jihad began really with the war in Afganistan against the soviet invaders. Around thirty thousand volunteers came from all the Muslim world to help the struggle of the Afghan mujahiddeen. Most of them didn’t fight directly, but all had the feeling to belong to a new Muslim Army, whose aim was to reconquer the lands of the Umma, the Muslim community. They really believed that the victory in Aghanistan was not the result of the help of the United States, Saudi Arabia or Pakistan, but was obtained because it was the will of God. So, with the help of God, they would be able in the future to free any Muslim countries ruled by the unfaithfull people

9Since the beginning of the 1990’s, jihadi networks used three different ways for financing their terrorist activities.

10The first one was the misappropriation of the funds given by the Wahhabi NGOs. These NGOs played an important role during the Afghanistan war. After 1989, they found new lands of jihad for spreading their ideology.

11A lot of Wahhabi NGOs coming from the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait or Saudi Arabia, went to work in Bosnia in 1993. The two most important of them were Al Haramein and the International Islamic Relief organization (IIRO). Of course they had real charity activities for the Muslims. Most of their money were used for building mosque and Coranic schools, for supplying food to civilian populations, for giving direct medical assistance to people that were hurt by the war, for managing refugee camps… But they dindn’t work only for humanitarian goals. They also had direct links with terrorist activities. They provided weapons, explosives and ammunitions. They recruited, as local members of staff, foreigner volunteers belonging to radical Muslim groups. They provided them NGO’s identity cards, they autorized them to drive NGO’s cars for their clandestine needs. In Bosnia were seized many boxes, officially carrying First Aid, but hiding in fact grenades or AK47.

12And the activities of IIRO in Philippines must not be forgotten. Its local representative was the Saudi National Jamel KHALIFA. He was not only an Afghan veteran, he was the own brother in law of Oussama BEN LADEN. He played an important role for the creation of Abou Sayyaf Group, then for the settlement of a Jammah Islammiyah training camp (Hudaybiah camp) in Mindanao.

13The same situation happened in Chechenya,. The Wahhabi mujahideen, leaded by the Checheni Chamil BASSAIEV and the Saudi Ibn Khattab, received an important financial help from the Saudi NGOs.

14That is the reason why, under international pressure, Saudi authorities decided to better control the activities of their NGOs. On June 2, 2004, Saudi Arabia announced the dissolution of the NGO Al Haramein, whose activities were given to a government organization, the Civil Council for the Help and Charity Works Abroad. t But the other ones stay very active: I.I.R.O. is today a real holding that controls investment companies, companies marketing pharmaceutical products and many other activities. The organization created a financial foundation, SANABELL AL KHAIR, located in Jeddah, to manage its funds and to secure stable incomes. It is active in over 80 countries with a budget exceeding 500 millions dollars. Generally speaking, its funds pass through AL RAJHI, the Saudi bank with an Islamic status.

15But anyway, contrarily to what happens with organized crime, there is no money laundering with the NGO’s. It is white money given by rich donators of the Middle east. It is a legal money whose a part disappear for an illegal use.

16The second way how Jihadi groups finance their activities was provided directly by Al Qaida. But only for the main operations. For the bombings of the US Embassies in Nairobi and DaarEs Salam in August 1998, for the four suicide attacks of 9/11 in the US. Al Qaida even provided at least 35.000 $ to Jammah Islammiyah for the Bali bombings in October 2003.

17Sometimes, Al Qaida used the banking system, sometimes it used the “Alhawa” financial system which is more difficult to trace, but in most of cases human couriers brought discretely the money in cash.

18But thirdly, in most of cases, local Jihadi groups searched to obtain themselves the money. And how do their self-finance their activities? By the use of criminal ways.

19What are the main criminal methods of the Jihadi groups? Burglaries, fake documents trafficking, robberies - including in some cases bank robberies -. But since the end of the 90s the most important work is credit card trafficking. Because with the credit card trafficking you can earn quickly a lot of money. One of the specialities of the European cells was to rent expensive cars in rental cars companies such Avis, and to keep them for selling them to criminal gangs for the third of the value.

20Contrarily to what is often written, jihadi networks don’t sell drugs for one reason. They could earn a lot of money but they risk to lose the discipline of their members. Specially in Europe where a lot of jihadi militants are former petty delinquents and, for a part, former drug addicts

21In Islam, to commit crime is forbidden. So Jihadi militants refer to a special Fatwa (Islamic judgement) that is called the Ghanima (the “legal exception”). It authorises to commit illegal actions, that’s to say criminal actions, if it’s committed against the non-Muslims for the benefit of the Jihadi cause. In South East Asia, specially in Indonesia, it is called “Fa’i”.

22One of the masterminds of Bali bombings, Iman SAMUDRA – sentenced to death - wrote recently a book. There is a complete chapter about the use of criminal means for finding logistical supports. For preparing its main terrorist attacks, JI had to complete the financing with criminal operations. example if you remember what happened in the main Jammah Islammiya actions you remember that at each time they need money and this money was found by criminal operation. For Bali bombings, a jewellery was robbed, for Mariott Hotel bombing a bank was attacked in Semarang… They were not isolated case. The local Jihadi group in Malaysia, the Kampulan Militant Malaysia, was dismantled in June 2001 because its members robbed two banks and a jewellery. During the robbery of the jewellery, two of the attackers were shot down and the third one was arrested. He quickly confessed to be a KMM member.


Is there any connection between the Chinese gangs and some terrorist group?

23There is no direct connection. But in Thailand, Jihadi networks had a specific interest about one specific criminal activity. Since 1998, 80% of the fake French or Belgian travel documents used by the Al Qaida networks in Europe were made in Thailand. Why were they using French documents? Because most of Al Qaida militants in Europe were Algerian, or Moroccan, or Tunisian and they spoke French. So they wanted to use French or Belgium identities for travelling abroad

24But investigations proved that, in Thailand, there was no Jihadi network, specialised in Fake documents trafficking. The fake documents are made by specialists, mainly Iranians or Pakistanis. These people sell to everybody, including some people from north African countries who were in the past involved in Jihadi activities and fled to Thailand for seeking an asylum. These men are the contacts of the European Al Qaida groups. And the Al Qaida groups orders them fake documents in large quantities. If they need 100 fake documents for their own militants, they are going to buy 1000 and they will sell the other 900 to illegal immigrants in Europe.


Chief police superintendent, French Embassy in Malaysia
Philippe Migaux is a Chef Police Superintendent at the French Embassy in Malaysia and is a well-known export on terrorism. His improvised paper explains the impossible relationship between terrorism and professional mafia gangs.

© Institut de recherche sur l’Asie du Sud-Est contemporaine, 2007

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