This past Wednesday, Harjit Sandhu, a United Nations Security Council expert on crime spoke to faculty and students on terrorism, specifically international money laundering and other methods of funding terrorism.
The terrorism discussed during the two-hour presentation and question and answer session that followed dealt little with Afghanistan and bin Laden directly. The slides shown were from his latest and last trip for the United Nations. That trip took him through Africa as part of an investigation into gun smuggling.
In Africa, terrorism is a very different thing. Slides showed families — children to adults — with hands cut off.
Sandhu noted that the most difficult part to fighting terrorism militarily, a position he strongly supports, is that terrorists know no boundaries, taking the war across many nations.
“The war is everywhere and nowhere at the same time,” he said.
Sandhu’s presentation on fighting the funding of terrorism noted the need for major changes.
He called for better coordination between financial institutions and law enforcement agencies. Currently, banking systems provide hundreds of thousands of pages for investigative purposes, but only after the fact. These documents are usually the paper trail of wire transfers and only represent part of the $2 trillion transferred per day.
Sandhu talked extensively about Informal Value Transfer Systems, another method of transferring money. Known as the hawala system — Hindi for “trust” — it involves the sender in one country paying a third party broker on one end. Another third party broker in another country, but from the same “circle,” then pays the receiver. No receipts pass hands and the paper trail is minimal making tracking difficult. The extent of the trail is a phone call from one broker to the next, and the talk is coded.
“Two dishonest people have to be honest with each other,” Sandhu said and the process works well this way. He added that it only takes five minutes to move any amount of money from one location to the next using this method and 18 to 36 months to investigate the transaction.
IVTSs are the system of choice for drug traffickers and terrorists for these reasons, as well as their lack of regulation. For the transactions that are done through regulated banking systems, government investigations consistently run into problems because bank secrecy and privacy laws are different in each country.
Fortunately, international organizations have called for reform to combat terrorism financing. Conventions and resolutions have been held and passed, and more are being scheduled and voted on in the wake of Sept. 11.
Recent terrorism legislation in Congress has focused on U.S. dealings with Hawalas and barring U.S. banks from dealing with “shell” banks, banks with no government regulation.
Sandhu’s talk about terrorism in the military sense were from his trip through Africa, but also on a larger scale. He called for military action, but not with ground troops. He said that the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan should complete that part of the operation.
Questions from the audience dealt largely with terrorism in a broader sense, but specifically with Afghanistan and bin Laden.
Sandhu’s trip to Temple was a last minute happening that took the coordination of both the student-run Criminal Justice Society and the Criminal Justice department. Jason Delpeche, liaison officer for the CJS said that Sandhu’s visit was only finalized on Monday. He had only come to America to present to the U.N. and attend his final Security Council meeting before departing the international position to return to India.