Still Swedish Waters Run Deep: Swedish Financing of Terrorism Increases

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The number of cases of the suspected terrorism financing in Sweden is increasing. An annual Financial Police report (for 2015) suggests that the total value of suspicious transactions exceeded 7.2 million krona (roughly 0.9 million dollars).

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Europe has seen a recent wave of major terrorist attacks of dramatic proportions. Following the blasts in Paris and Brussels, which featured a Swedish-bred accomplice, Sweden's Financial Police decided to step up international cooperation to identify the underlying financing.

"To throttle the financing of terrorist organizations and terrorist attacks is crucial if we are to succeed in the fight against terrorism," Angelica Wallmark, department chief at the Financial Police said in a statement.

Over 300 Swedish-born extremists are estimated to have left the country to fight in conflict areas in the Middle East, one of the highest proportions of "terrorism export" per capita in Europe. Unsurprisingly, suspicions of terrorist financing have also increased dramatically.

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On July 1, 2014, new legislation was introduced in Sweden allowing regulators to uncover money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

During the second half of 2014, transaction bans were imposed, lowering total one-time transaction values to just over 3.4 million krona (roughly $400,000 dollars). In 2015, a total of 72 bans were imposed, limiting withdraws to a value of just over 7.2 krona million krona (roughly $900,000).

"This means that finance police can temporarily suspend a suspicious transaction at an earlier stage, which often proves crucial," Angelica Wallmark said.

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An act of terrorism is usually costly to carry out, since recruits are, more often than not, young men with very limited resources. According to the annual report of the Finance Police, terrorism is mainly financed through legal jobs with help of loans than may be taken without collateral. Money changers are another group who risk being exploited in the financing of terrorism. It is important, therefore, that financial operators report suspicious transactions to the Financial Police.

In 2015, Estonia topped the list of suspicious money transfers to Sweden, while Nigeria and Ghana accounted for the most suspicious money transfers from Sweden. Remarkably, Saudi Arabia and Switzerland are the undoubted leaders with respect to the volume of suspicious transactions to and from Sweden.

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Following last week's welcome reception at a summit in Washington, four Nordic countries Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, they announced they will contribute additional troops, equipment and finances to the US-led coalition against Daesh. Ever-neutral Sweden pledged to send military trainers to Iraq and spend 200 million dollars in development assistance on Syria.

Besides the risk of "imported" terrorism, the risk of home-grown radicalism has been mounting in Sweden. Earlier, only seven percent of municipalities actually coped with the task of assessing the risk of terrorism and working out an action plan, whereas one fourth admitted that violent extremism existed, the newspaper Dagens Nyheter reported in April.

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