Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Yuri Fedotov said that criminals and terrorists shared a need to operate in the shadows, exploiting gaps in criminal justice responses in and between countries and regions.
Speaking at the UN Security Council open debate on threats to international peace and security on Tuesday, Fedotov told the Council members that organized crime gangs may employ “terrorist tactics” to achieve their objectives, while terrorists get involved directly in income-generating criminal activities.
Daesh terrorist group, for example, had profited immensely from the illegal trade in oil, trafficking in cultural property they ransacked from places such as Palmyra in Syria, and Mosul in Iraq, and kidnapping for ransom, the UN official noted.
“We have also seen piracy and organized crime flourish on the high seas, including outside the justification of any single State and beyond the capacities of many countries to control,” Fedotov emphasized.
He indicated that Somalia’s al-Shabaab extremists supported piracy and finance some of their operations from trade in Somali charcoal through the Gulf of Oman, while al-Qaeda terrorist group resupplies its forces around the Arabian Peninsula by sea.
The UNODC Executive Director called for more resources to be channeled towards technical assistance to strengthen specialized expertise and capacities, spelling out that this includes training for law enforcement, coast guards, border and airport officials, prosecutors, judges, prison officers and other relevant officials.
“We need to reinforce investment in mechanisms for inter-agency, regional and international cooperation, including information and intelligence sharing,” he said.
Also during the debate, Executive Director of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) Michèle Coninsx outlined the Council’s various activities to combat the financing of terrorism. She noted that the territorial losses sustained by Daesh, which just a few years ago controlled large swathes of Syria and Iraq, had made it imperative for them to access funds through a wide range of criminal activities including drug trafficking, weapons sales, kidnapping and extortion.
Within the framework of country assessment visits, Ms Coninsx said, CTED engages with national authorities on how they view the links between terrorism and organized crime, as well as on cases in where clear links have been identified. She said several best practices had been identified, such as creating joint investigative units and prosecution teams to handle both organized crime and terrorism.