Friday, December 10, 2004 - Terrorists using cash machines to fund networks - Terrorists using cash machines to fund networks

Dec. 10, 2004, 9:46AM

Terrorists using cash machine scheme to fund networks
French judge says the Caucasus is al-Qaida's key training ground

Associated Press

PARIS - Radical Islamic cells in Europe are using an ingenious way to finance terrorist networks that's virtually impossible to trace: withdrawing hundreds of thousands of dollars a month from cash machines with fake credit cards, according to France's top anti-terrorism judge.

Jean-Louis Bruguiere, who's been at the forefront of the fight against terrorism for 20 years, said the Caucasus has replaced Afghanistan as a key militant training ground for Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network and other groups around the world.

Bruguiere said militant financing networks are small, scattered around the world and represent millions of dollars in fund-raising for terrorists.

The judge said authorities caught on to the cash-machine scheme two years ago when investigators uncovered one such financing cell operating in France.

Ten suspected Islamic militants were withdrawing more than $100,000 a month from cash machines in other European countries, where they were arrested.

"The (Islamic) European networks finance themselves primarily through microfinancing systems — criminal activity that is very profitable," he said Wednesday.

Judges who specialize in financial crimes are trained only in macrofinancing investigations — large sums involving banks, Bruguiere said. Therefore, little attention has been paid to this "fraudulent use of bank cards," the judge said. "So it is very difficult to catch."

Bruguiere said he calls the cards "clones."

The technique appears to be similar to a sophisticated electronic scam that involved cash machines in Britain in March. There, police found cloning devices attached to the machines.

The device, which is attached to the card slot of the machine, works by recording the details on the magnetic stripe of the card as it passes through.

In the case of the Islamic militant cells, Bruguiere said they also purchase electronic equipment and resell it to help finance "large operations," although he wouldn't say what terrorist attacks might have been paid for through such financing schemes.

In March, France launched a judicial investigation after a cash-machine technician was accused of faking a robbery to help fund a Moroccan network.


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