8 July 2005

UNODC Executive Director Says Tracking Terrorist Funding as Important as Chasing Terrorists

VIENNA, 8 July (UN Information Service) -- According to Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), "The horrific bombings in London tell us that the first response is to find and punish the terrorists responsible for this slaughter. But it can’t stop there. Governments and counter-terrorism operations often define their mandate of ensuring security in a narrow sense, i.e. not allowing terrorists to carry out operations . . . but if we do not demolish the terrorists’ source of funds, drug revenues in particular, we will not succeed. The opium economy will thrive, and so will terrorism."

"What is the point of freezing terrorist bank accounts, if these murderers can replenish their funds at harvest time in Afghanistan, Colombia or Morocco?" added Mr. Costa.

The terrorist attacks in London have claimed dozens of lives and wounded hundreds of innocent victims in the worst attack on civilians since World War II. this is proof that terrorist organizations’ flexible cell structures allow independent operators to plan, fund, and implement strikes almost four years after September 11.

While it is critical to hunt down terrorist cells and individuals, the London bombings prove that identifying potential attackers is enormously difficult. They operate in anonymity; ‘sleepers’ who wait and plan patiently for years to ensure the success of terrorist attacks on innocent populations.

There is evidence that there is a direct correlation between terrorism, terrorist funding and revenues from the cultivation and production of illicit drugs – heroin (poppies), cocaine (coca leaf), and cannabis. Afghan heroin has funded operations by the Taliban, Al-Qaida and Hizb-e-Islami. Heroin has also funded terrorist operations in the Balkans/Kosovo (KLA offshoots); in Myanmar (United Wa State Army); in the Philippines (Abu Sayyaf); in Somalia (warlords); in Sri Lanka (LTTE); in Turkey (PKK); and in Uzbekistan (IMU). Cocaine cultivation and production has funded terrorist operations in Colombia (FARC, AUC); in Peru (Shining Path); and in Northern Ireland (IRA). More recently, Hizbollah has been implicated in cocaine and hashish trafficking.

Retail revenues from illicit drugs amounted to US$ 322 billion in 2005. in terms of GDP, the drug economy represents the eighteenth-largest in the world (the size of the whole economy of Sweden). Freezing funds in capitals of the world does not count for much if terrorists can depend on drug revenues to replenish their criminal coffers.

In 2004, more than 400 tonnes of heroin came out of Afghanistan. Today, that same Afghan heroin is flooding Europe and Asia, triggering countless overdoses, spreading HIV/AIDS, and subsidizing terrorism. It kills more than 100,000 persons each year. Coca production increases this year in Bolivia and Peru correlate with increased arms trafficking in the three specific provinces where drug cultivation has surged. Cutting off terrorist funding from drug proceeds is as critical as identifying and hunting down the individuals responsible for this latest slaughter.


To schedule interviews with UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa, or for more information, contact:

Kathleen Millar
Deputy Spokesperson, UNODC
Telephone: +43 1 26060 5629
Mobile: +43 699 1459 5629
E-mail: kathleen.millar@unvienna.org

Richard Krueger
Telephone: +43 1 26060 5214
E-mail: richard.krueger@unvienna.org