07 Dec 2015
Following the regular meeting this week of EU finance ministers, delegates have expressed widespread support for the measures proposed by the French government to target terrorism financing. The French have identified non-banking forms of payment as a commonly used way of transferring funds for terrorism, alongside the illegal sale of cultural artifacts.
French officials stated in a document sent to European diplomats last week that the attacks on Paris a month ago were partly funded through prepaid cards. The document also stated that French criminal investigation department officers have found prepaid cards at the homes of individuals who belong to organised crime, migrant traffickers and terrorist networks.
A renewed sense of threat is clearly being felt by European states following the Paris attacks, but the use of non-banking payment methods for funding illegal activities has been on the agenda for some time, particularly following the Charlie Hebdo attacks. The French have now called for a coordinated approach across the EU. As prepaid cards and virtual currencies enable transactions to take place undetected across borders, ministers argued that united measures need to be implemented quickly.
Proposed solutions include capping the amount that can be loaded onto prepaid cards and limiting the conversion of virtual currencies into legal currencies. More controversially, the French proposal also urges ministers to set up a European programme for tracking bank transfers and intercepting transactions similar to the US Terrorist Financing Tracking Program (TFTP).
TFTP has been highly contentious in the US – but it has also been effective. Europe’s long-cherished notions of privacy, which have seen the EU take on Google, Facebook and others, would take a significant knock if TFTP were to be implemented by the EU. There is clearly a great sense of urgency at the moment, but whether it will translate into long-term action remains to be seen.
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