Terrorist organisations and organised crime are working together, Werksmans Attorneys said on Wednesday.
“There is a convenient unholy alliance that has developed between traditional organised crime groups and terrorist groups,” head of business crime and forensics Bernard Hotz told reporters in Johannesburg.
“If you look at the rationale about white collar crime, it’s about money.”
Hotz said that according to the latest Global Terrorism Index, produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace, South Africa ranked in the top 50 countries where terrorist activity took place.
The 2014 index placed South Africa 48th, with 19 other African countries in the top 50. Nigeria is the highest-placed at fourth. Hotz said Africa was a hotbed for terrorist activity and organised crime due to high levels of corruption, lawlessness, ineffective law enforcement and lax border controls, which enabled such groups to channel funds.
He said his research and reports indicated that several terrorist groups were currently operating in South Africa, being Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, the Islamic State, Boko Haram, and Al-Shabaab.
While South Africa had “wonderful” legislation to police white collar crime and terrorism, it was not being effectively implemented.
“South Africa unfortunately is perceived as having a state of lawlessness, very lax ability for law enforcement,” Hotz said.
“One only needs read in the media now about what’s happening with the NPA, with the chief of police, with the head of Hawks. All these wonderful units which are supposed to be looking after our safety and security, and yet they are focused on something totally different.”
South Africa also had limited investigative intelligence, given the “great cost” needed to invest in intelligence capabilities.
“Organised crime and terror groups in 2009 were valued at US870 billion, approximately 1.5 percent of global GDP. Today transnational organised crime value is well above US1 trillion a year,” he said.
“That’s quite astounding to say the least.”
Terrorist groups and organised crime had found several ways of generating illicit funding. These included diamonds, cybercrime, bogus NGOs and charities, insurance fraud, and planting “rogue employees” in large companies.
They would conduct their activities under the veneer of legitimate business, but no attention was paid to where the proceeds of their operations were being channelled to. He said that in 2010, the trade and industry department launched an independent forensic investigation and found a Pakistani syndicate that was cloning companies operating within the department.
“No matter what sector you’re in, you cannot think that you’re immune to becoming victim to this type of behaviour,” Hotz said.
Since large companies had the biggest pockets, they were also potentially the biggest victims.
“I believe that the big corporations should not sit back and believe they’re immune. One only needs to look at Eskom, SAA, Telkom. What’s going on out there at the moment is troubling to say the least.”
Even rhino poaching had been used as an illicit source of money for terrorist activities.
“The investigative company that I use to conduct my investigations were heavily involved for SANParks in the rhino poaching,” Hotz said.
“It would be amazing to see the links as to companies around the world who are involved and yes, it was being used partly to finance the purchase of weapons used for terrorism.”
Hotz said companies had to be pro-active in protecting themselves from organised crime and terror groups, and adopt a zero-tolerance approach.
“I think we are actually becoming more vulnerable,” he said.
“It’s happening on a wide-scale basis and you can accept that it’s happening to the biggest of the biggest.” SAPA