Terrorism and Organized crime have long been considered as two separate phenomena. But recently scholars are beginning to grasp the symbiotic relationship that has grown over the years especially after the 9/11 attack on the USA. India continues to be the main target of terrorism and also grapples with the menace of organized crime; it is important for policymakers to study and come up with a solution to the unholy linkage.
What is terrorism?
There is no internationally accepted definition of terrorism. Scholars define it in various ways. According to Bruce Hoffman terrorism is the deliberate creation and exploitation of fear through violence or the threat of violence in the pursuit of political change.
Terrorism has been used by ideologies as a tool of political change for a long time now. From organization-based activities like LeT to lone-wolf attacks from ISIS, terrorism operates in many ways to fulfill its goals
There are two types of terrorism namely
- Terrorism by External state actors
When Government directly or indirectly indulges in terrorism against its own people or the people of another country, it is terrorism by external state actors.
e.g. Terrorism in Kashmir
- Terrorism by non-state actors
The act of terrorism performed by an individual or a group which is not associated with or financed by any government.
e.g. LTTE, IM, LeT
What is Organized crime?
Much like terrorism there is no uniformly accepted definition of organized crime. The organized crime convention defines organized criminal group as a structured group of three or more persons, existing for a period of time and acting in concert with the aim of committing one or more serious crimes or offences, in order to obtain, directly or indirectly, a financial or other material benefits.
According to the convention
- A structured group here does not require any formal hierarchy or continuity of its membership.
- A serious crime means any offence punishable by at least 4 years of imprisonment.
- The convention also lays down the definition of the transnational organized crime. The offence is transnational if
- It is committed in more than one state.
- it is committed in one State but a substantial part of its preparation, planning, direction or control takes place in another State
- It is committed in one State but involves an organized criminal group that engages in criminal activities in more than one State
What are the types of organized crime?
The major crimes in which the organized crime syndicates are engaged are
- Drug Trafficking
- Arms trafficking
- Money laundering and Hawala
- Contract killing
- Kidnapping and Extortions
- Illegal migration
- Human trafficking
What is the link between Organized crime and terrorism?
Though mostly both the phenomena are studied differently. Both have different ends. While the organize crime engages in various criminal activities for financial gains, terrorism engages in its violent activities for political gains. But recently, Scholars have stated that there is a strong link between the two. Terrorists are increasingly supporting them through terrorist activities.
- Terrorism and Drug Trafficking
- According to UNDOC (2017), annual trade of illicit drugs is estimated in the range of $426-652 billion, and the proceeds of which generate 1/5th to 1/3rd of the global revenues of organized crime.
- In 2013, Cocaine of $1.25 billion was trafficked through West Africa to Europe amid rising concerns over the possibilities of Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb’s increased involvement in drug trafficking.
- Approximately 86% of the world’s Opium cultivation takes place in Afghanistan in the regions controlled by the Taliban. The Taliban’s association with the opium economy also indicates a correlation between the trade-in illicit drugs as a criminal activity and terrorism.
- Terrorism and Arms Trafficking
- Terrorists are increasingly using automatic weapons to perpetrate attacks and there is a growing concern about arms trafficking groups supporting terrorism with the provision of advanced arms.
- The use of weapons by terrorists is evident in several recent attacks and attempted attacks across Europe. For example, in the ISIL inspired terrorist attacks carried out in Paris in November 2015, extremists opened fire with Kalashnikov and other types of assault rifles, which ended up in the criminal market as a result of cross-border trafficking
- Tunisian authorities have seized arms and ammunition caches trafficked from Libya by organized commercial smugglers and financed by terrorist groups linked to Al-Qaida
- Terrorism and smuggling
- Terrorist groups seem to have increasingly taken up trafficking in illicit antiquities and cultural property to fund their operations, support recruits, and acquire weapons
- antiquities are not only a source of revenue generation for terrorists, but they also have symbolic value. By destroying and/or removing symbolic representations of culture, terrorist groups effectively undermine the State/nationalism and attack the morale of local populations/peoples through a type of “cultural cleansing”
- Terrorism and Human trafficking
- trafficking in persons is a lucrative business for armed groups around the world (UNCTED, 2019)
- Recent actions by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), or Islamic State in the Levant (ISIL), also known as Daesh, and Boko Haram (Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jahad) in Nigeria have drawn attention to a growing nexus between terrorism and trafficking in persons
- Terrorism and kidnapping for ransom
- From 1970-2010, kidnapping incidents represented a small portion of all terrorist attacks (6.9%), however, through 2016 the percentage of kidnappings has jumped significantly to 15.8% of all terrorist attacks (Global Terrorism Database, 2018)
- Between 2008 and 2014, Al-Qaida and its direct affiliates made at least $125 million in revenue from kidnappings, $66 million of which was collected in 2013 according to researchers. (UNDOC website)
How the symbiotic relationship works?
In general, the crime-terror nexus works in the following ways
- They have some tactics and methods in common
- One type of group transforms to other type and vice versa i.e. organized crime syndicate turning into terrorist group
- The transactional activities on service for hire.
How terrorism and organized crime are similar?
- They both operate in secrecy and try not to come under the radar of national and international law enforcement agencies.
- Both use violence and most of the times the victims are civilians
- They work with an ideology of fear to get things done.
- They use front organizations such as legitimate corporates and national and international NGOs.
How terrorism and organization are distinguishable?
- Organized crime groups are mainly in criminal activities for money and other material benefits as seen earlier while terrorist groups are engaged in activities for political, religious and other goals.
- Terrorist organizations that want to topple existing states contest them for legitimacy among the people but organized crimes don’t need to gain legitimacy among the people.
- Terrorist organizations try to make a statement with their activities and attract media attention but Organized crime works in forever secrecy.
- Terrorist organizations engage in activities in propaganda but organized crime does not.
What are the reasons for the increasing nexus between Terrorism and organized crime?
- Both are realizing the complementary nature of each other in achieving their goals.
- They have a common enemy in national governments and the rule of law.
- Historically, the end of the cold war ended financial support to many terrorist organizations that led terrorist organizations to link themselves with organized crime for financial support.
- Increased sophistication in money laundering as corporates engage in tax evasion that helps in the continuous money supply.
- Issues of misgovernance and lack of governance.
- The inequalities existing in society are manipulated by these organizations to grow their base.
- Globalization has its side effects through the communication revolution and its anonymity. The cyberspace and dark web are increasingly being used to coordinate.
- The outstanding geopolitical issues that are sought to be solved by governments through immoral activities like terrorism and crime penetration.
India and the Terrorism-organized crime nexus
As we know, India is a target of major terrorist organizations, and being a country with huge coastlines and unstable neighboring countries is a hotbed of organized crime with various criminal gangs operating out of metropolitans such as Mumbai. In India the linkages exist at national and transnational levels. The arenas of nexus are
- The linkages in Kashmir exist at different levels. The external sources fund the terrorist activities. These funds reach Kashmir through various means. Funds mobilized in Pakistan are channelized through Gulf countries fronting various organizations.
- Lashkar-e-Toiba. Besides, external funds are also routed through select organizations and individuals in Kashmir
- Money laundering plays a significant role. Hawala (money laundering) transactions take place swiftly and effectively in Kashmir. Besides, it is also believed that the ISI uses drug money to fund militant activities in Kashmir.
- The spread of counterfeit currency and its smuggling acts as a major funding source for militants
- North-East is the hotbed of insurgent groups engaged in terrorist activities. They have formed parallel governments in different parts.
- This kind of hold on the territory is only possible if the source of finance is strong.
- The Insurgent groups engage in kidnapping and extortion.
- Much of the government funds reach militant groups due to misgovernance.
- Illicit drug trafficking is a major source of finances for these groups. Northeast is in close proximity of the golden triangle of drug trafficking.
- The drug trafficking in Punjab is a major path to generate money for terrorist activities by Pakistan based groups.
- The local support to the drug trafficking makes it possible to grow.
- There are reports of ISIS converting Sikh separatist groups into drug cartels.
- Mumbai, being a financial capital has also hosted numerous criminal syndicates for a long time.
- The infamous global terrorist Daud Ibrahim ran his criminal group from Mumbai before he escaped after 1992 bomb blasts.
- The Criminal groups are still engaged in various activities like money laundering, FICN smuggling, etc though the old menace of extortion and contract killing has stopped now to a large extent.
- The FICN i.e. the Fake Indian currency notes and its smuggling is the main source of terrorist financing.
What are the impacts of the nexus?
- The nexus between terrorism and organized crime is very dangerous as they both sustain through each other’s help.
- They form a threat to national security and it is difficult to trace the activities of individual groups. The nexus makes the investigation even more complex with more layers to unravel.
- The financial support from organized crime is able to sustain terrorism and despite of counter-terrorism activities are rising, there is no stopping of their activities.
- Organized crime can convert itself into full-fledged terrorist groups. As a result, youth engaged in organized crime through petty activities are drawn into terrorism.
- The nexus threatens the sanctity of boundaries through unholy criminal-political nexus and corrupts the border administration.
How India is tackling the nexus?
- India has a robust anti-terror structure and is been tackling the menace of terrorism since last several decades.
- The legal arrangements for tackling terrorism and organized crime
It provides for more effective prevention of certain unlawful activities of individuals and organizations. The 2012 amendment includes economic offences under the ambit of terrorist activities.
It also gave authorities the right to attach or forfeit of property equivalent to counterfeit currency involved.
- The National Investigation Agency Act, 2008–
Other than offences of terrorism, it also deals with counterfeit currency, human trafficking, narcotics, organized crime.
- The prevention of Money Laundering act also targets money laundering activities in a focused manner to counter the hawala transactions.
- The institutional arrangements
- Operationalization of NATGRID for intelligence gathering.
- The national and state investigating agencies engaged in tackling organized crimes such as NIA and state criminal investigation departments.
- The anti-narcotic cells in states.
What are the international efforts regarding the issue?
- The 1999 International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism has far-reaching implications for investigating and punishing criminal financial activities used to fund acts of terrorism.
- The FATF i.e. the Financial Action Taskforce engages in actions against terrorist financing through money laundering, human trafficking, etc. it is by far the most important organization that directly tackles the nexus.
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What are the difficulties in tackling the nexus?
- The legal complexities create duplicity of efforts and jurisdictional issues. These delays investigation and often gives unnecessary cooling-off period for groups to regather themselves.
- The higher echelons of organized crime are insulated from its foot soldiers. Hence it is difficult to dent the structure significantly. There is difficulty in obtaining proof.
- The main link between these two is network of financial transactions. The rising sophistication in money laundering and corporate greed resulting in tax evasion, unfortunately, helps the network of money laundering.
- There is a lack of coordination between police departments of different states that makes organized crime and terrorist nexus easy to operate.
- The criminal-political-bureaucratic nexus helps crime syndicates which indirectly helps in the spread of terrorism.
- The state support for terrorism and unorganized crime makes it difficult for any international cooperation and consensus-building.
- Dual criminality and the spread of nexus across the world make it difficult to track due to lack of international and bilateral coordination and cooperation.
- The nexus that is thriving due to complementary nature must be broken down so that it will be easier to tackle them separately.
- There is a need for fine-tuning of the criminal investigation so as to find and establish links of a crime syndicate with terrorism.
- Improving coordination and establishing specialized units to investigate. The specialized unit must have competent human resources, finances, technical expertise and appropriate legal backing to work in an unhindered manner.
- The necessity of legal backing stems from the existence of numerous stakeholders such as state police, border security, financial sector, special units such as narcotics departments.
- The interstate coordination is necessary and an organization in the lines of the National Counter Terrorism Center to tackle the nexus. It will help in national and international coordination.
- India must continue to engage the international space for better policy, concerted actions against state-sponsored terrorism, and terrorist financing.
- The international cooperation can stem from UNSC resolutions and other institutional mechanisms such as FATF.
Practice Question for Mains
Examine India’s vulnerability to the terrorism-organized crime nexus. What are the reasons for the rising nexus between the two?