Indonesia Tracks, Freezes Terrorism Funds from Overseas

Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata
151230-ID-terror-funds-620 Densus 88 personnel stand outside a house in Malang, East Java, where three men were arrested as part of a government crackdown against suspected Islamic State supporters in Indonesia, March 26, 2015.

Indonesia’s Financial Transaction and Analysis Center (PPATK) claims it has tracked about 5 billion rupiah (U.S. $365,000) in money sent to Indonesia from sources in Australia for use by terrorists.

The center joined forces with its counterpart in neighboring Australia, the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Center (AUSTRAC) to uncover the illicit flow of cash destined for terrorist cells in Indonesia, according to Agus Santoso, deputy director of the PPATK, the Indonesian anti-money laundering agency.

“Through our cooperation, we found a link of the flow of funds between suspected terrorist networks in Indonesia and Australia,” Agus told BenarNews on Wednesday.

Some of the funds were collected from Australian citizens who were not aware that their donations would be used to support terrorists, he said.

PPATK chairman Muhammad Yusuf said Australian donors were told that the funds would go toward a foundation or to aid an individual starting a business.

“From their perspective, they are providing humanitarian assistance, not funding terrorist activities,” Yusuf said.

PPTAK also reported that it had frozen 26 bank accounts valued at more than 2 billion rupiahs (about U.S. $152,000) in accordance with U.N. Security Council resolutions against terrorism that require all member states to freeze assets related with al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Because of these efforts, the 36-member Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF) in June removed Indonesia from its blacklist of countries that did not adhere to the implementation of U.N. resolutions along with its own recommendations.

“What PPATK is doing is following the money flows and the results of our analysis aid Densus 88 as it tracks suspected terrorists,” Agus said, referring to Indonesia’s elite police counter-terrorist unit.

According to Agus, terrorist networks operate businesses ranging from chemical stores, herbal medicine shops, car showrooms to bookstores.

“The funds generated from the businesses may not necessarily directly be used to support terrorist-related activities but, in tracking several layers, we can see that the funds are allegedly used to support terrorism,” he said.

Generally, terrorist groups use the money to buy weapons and explosives, conduct training and pay for living expenses of widows and families of slain terrorists, Agus added.

Need to be careful

Jakarta-based terrorism expert Rakyan Adibrata, however, said Indonesia should be careful that it did not freeze accounts established to provide humanitarian assistance in conflict zones such as in Syria or Iraq.

“Some humanitarian groups have to spend time and make contact with radical groups or insurgents because they conduct humanitarian operations in the area of where radical groups exist,” Rakyan said. “But if it is clearly related to terrorism, such accounts deserve to be frozen,” he said.

High terrorist threat

The revelation of the alleged financial pipeline for terrorists came nine days after Indonesia and Australia announced a joint agreement to share intelligence in combatting terrorism.

Information from Australian federal police also helped Indonesian authorities recently arrest nine suspects, including some with alleged ties to the Islamic State (IS) extremist group. According to Indonesian police, the suspects were plotting year-end terrorist attacks in Indonesia.

The nation has since been put on a high state of alert.

In 2015, police prevented nine terror plots and arrested 74 people linked to terrorist activities, said National Police Chief Gen. Badrodin Haiti.

In his year-end report issued on Tuesday, Badrodin said that cases against 65 of those in custody were on-going, but nine suspects were released because of lack of evidence.

Since 2000, police have tracked down about 1,000 suspected terrorists, he said. Of that total, 299 offenders have been sentenced, three were executed, 12 people killed themselves in suicide bombings, and 104 were killed during the raids.

Because of the continued funding to support alleged terrorist activities, police expect such threats to remain high in 2016.


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