Report shows how counterfeiting finances terrorism

© signaramadresden / Fotolia.
According to a new report from the Bavarian radio and TV broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk, numerous terrorist groups deal in counterfeits to finance their activities. More often than not, they are aided by unsuspecting tourists.

In numerous popular holiday locations, dealers lure foreign tourists with a vast number of counterfeits of popular brand proudcts such as sneakers, handbags, and sunglasses. The buyers are often unaware though that they might be supporting criminal or even terrorist networks, as shown by the interactive graphic that accompanies the reaearch of the Bavarian radio and TV broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk (BR).

According to the BR, if one traces the origins of the illegal imitations, one finds connections to various terror networks such as Al Qaida, Hamas, Hezbollah, or even the so-called Islamic State. Those responsible for attacks in Europe are also said to have financed themselves with product counterfeiting. To name one example, two of the men who carried out the attack on the editorial offices of Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket in Paris last year sold counterfeit brand-name sneakers and smuggled cigarettes. In another case, the Spanish Policía Nacional reported in July that several people on the official terrorist lists were recently arrested for counterfeiting.

The BR report details dozens of piracy and smuggling cases with connections to terrorism. Altogether, around 95% of the perpetrators of the recent attacks in Europe supposedly had a criminal background, reports US terror expert Louise Shelley for the BR. For terrorists, the potentially high profit margins and relatively low risk are what seemingly make the sale of illegal products attractive. “One can easily reach margins five or ten times as large. And of course the supply is readily available. Clothing, cigarettes, smuggling. It’s all there,” explained Jean-Charles Brisard from the terror research institute CAT in Paris.

Therefore, it’s important to publicise the connection between product counterfeiting and international terrorism, confirms an informant of the BR, who is well-acquainted with international counterfeiting and smuggling networks. It is “macabre, that visiting tourists who occasionally buy a cheap pack of cigarettes or counterfeit Nike sneakers support terrorists in doing so,” said the informant commenting the situation.

For their interactive graphic on product piracy and terror financing, BR and the broadcaster ARD evaluated numerous court documents, police reports, and scientific studies, among other sources. Recently a report from the French manufacturers‘ association Union des Fabricants (UNIFAB) also depicted the connection between product counterfeiting and terrorism (we reported).

Source: Bayerischer Rundfunk

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