What Is Combating the Financing of Terrorism (CFT)?

Combating the Financing of Terrorism (CFT) involves investigating, analyzing, deterring, and preventing sources of funding for activities intended to achieve political, religious, or ideological goals. CFT is achieved through violence and the threat of violence against civilians. By tracking down the source of the funds that support terrorist activities, law enforcement may be able to prevent some of those activities from occurring. 

Key Takeaways

  • Combatting the Financing of Terrorism (CFT) is focused on restricting the movement of funds to terrorist organizations and may focus on a variety of entities, such as banks, charities, and businesses and a number of activities, such as regulation, supervision, and reporting.
  • The processes of Combating the Financing of Terrorism are the efforts made to identify and halt the movement of funds, which in some cases may be disguised as legitimate financial transactions, used to finance terrorist activities. 
  • Money laundering is the process of making illegally sourced money appear to be legitimate, and this process, which has a significant role in the financing of terrorism, is the target of a large portion of CFT efforts, from detection to prosecution.
  • Financial Intelligence Units investigate suspicious transactions and then provide information to law enforcement for further investigation or prosecution.
  • The Financial Action Task Force is a group of 35 countries that work together to combat the financing of terrorism by standardizing regulations to prevent abuse of weaker regulatory systems.

How Combating the Financing of Terrorism (CFT) Works

Combating the Financing of Terrorism (CFT) includes teaching financial investigative techniques to law enforcement, teaching prosecutors to win money laundering cases, and training financial supervisory and regulatory authorities to identify suspicious activity. CFT efforts may examine charities, underground banking entities, and registered money service businesses, among other entities. CFT is also known as Counterfinancing of Terrorism.

Individuals and organizations who finance terrorism need to conceal how the money will be used and where it originated. The funds may come from legal sources, such as legitimate religious or cultural organizations, or from illegal sources, such as drug trafficking and government corruption. The funds may also come from an illegal source but appear to come from a legal source through money laundering. 

Money laundering and terrorism financing are often linked. When law enforcement is able to detect and prevent money laundering activities, it is often simultaneously preventing those funds from being used to finance acts of terror. Combating money laundering is key to CFT. Little of the money used to finance terrorism comes from dual-purpose charities, while most of it comes from underground banking entities called hawala as well as from trade-based money laundering and cash couriers.

Special Considerations

Instead of trying to catch a criminal plotting or committing an act of terrorism through other means such as surveillance, law enforcement addresses the problem from the money side by detecting suspicious financial transactions and tracking down all the individuals and organizations involved in those transactions.

Anyone who willfully provides money to carry out a terrorist act, whether directly or indirectly, is guilty of financing terrorism. Because terrorists use different methods, called typologies, to finance their activities and conceal the sources of their financing by means specific to their local economy, financial market regulators and law enforcement must use a variety of techniques to catch these criminals.

When there are differences in anti-money laundering and CFT laws among countries, especially when some countries have weaker controls than others, terrorists will abuse those countries’ financial systems to secretly move money. By creating standardized procedures for the financial sector, the criminal justice system, and certain businesses and professions, terrorism financing becomes harder to hide. The FATF also collects and shares information about trends in money laundering and terrorism financing and works closely with the IMF, the World Bank, and the United Nations.

Benefits of Combating the Financing of Terrorism

Financial institutions play an important role in combating the financing of terrorism because terrorists often rely on them, especially banks, to transfer money. Laws that require banks to perform due diligence on their customers, both new and existing, and to report suspicious transactions such as high-value cash transactions to the authorities, can help prevent terrorism.

An additional reason for CFT is that the use of the financial system by criminals engaged in money laundering and terrorist financing is considered a threat to the financial system’s stability. The public may not trust the integrity of the financial system if the system cannot detect illicit activities.

Financial Intelligence Units (FIU) and the practice of cross-border information sharing among nations contribute to CFT. FIUs are specialized government agencies that investigate reports of potentially suspicious financial transactions received from individuals and institutions. FIUs then give law enforcement information about transactions that warrant further investigation.

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which is composed of 35 countries and two regional organizations (the European Commission and the Gulf Co-operation Council), works to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism through creating standardized processes to stop threats to the international financial system.