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Sri Lanka parley mulls action against terrorist financing
11 Jun, 2010 08:53:33
June 11, 2010 (LBO) - Ways to counter terrorism and terrorist financing which is becoming increasingly sophisticated were discussed at a meeting of South Asian police and prosecutors in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo this week, officials said.
Closer co-operation between police and prosecutors in convicting terrorists and recognizing evidence was also taken up at the meeting hosted by the government and the UN's Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate.

"This is a region that knows the brunt of terrorism all too well and vies with the Middle East as the region with the highest casualties," said James Cockayne of the Center for Global Counter Terrorism Co-operation, a US-based think-tank.

"Our talks focused in particular on countering terrorist financing about which we heard from police officers with years of experience."

He said countering terrorism required cross-border co-operation between national law enforcement authorities.

"No country can tackle the scourge of terrorism or seek to arrest terrorist financing on its own and co-operation is increasingly becoming essential to understanding and controlling the financial flows that provide the lifeblood of terrorist activities," Cockayne said.

"We heard a great deal about the links between terrorist activity and organized crime such as drug trafficking, extortion and in some parts kidnapping and ransom."

The meeting also focused on the use of new modes of electronic payments by terrorists for their funding operations.

"One of the emerging challenges faced by prosecutors is the new payment methods such as electronic transfer of funds, use of internet or mobile hone payment systems which are very difficult to track."

Cockayne said these methods proved increasingly challenging in the region and beyond as more and more people use them methods to move money around the world

"We also heard from prosecutors about various techniques that might be used to arrest these flows," he said.

The meeting also discussed data mining techniques that might be used to track terrorist financing.

"The technology to lawfully gain access to financial records and understand the data in those records to connect the dots in financing terrorism was also discussed," said Cockayne.

It also focused on improving the skills of law enforcement professionals in the region to understand how terrorist activities are financed and the use of electronic surveillance.

C A H M Wijeratna, director general in Sri Lanka's foreign ministry said the lack of collaboration between law enforcement agencies hampered more effective action against terrorists.

Narrow technical interpretations of the law by courts that resulted in suspects being free because police evidence was not recognized was also an issue.

"When suspects are produced by police in courts the courts find it difficult to accept the evidence presented by the police."

He said there had been many cases where terrorist suspects were released without charge as police could not produce enough evidence to convict them.

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