Magharebia (Washington DC)

Morocco Battles Terror Funding

Rabat — Morocco's efforts to fight money laundering and terrorism financing are seeing results.

The inter-governmental Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force a fortnight ago removed Morocco from its list of countries requiring a follow-up process.

The organisation's parent body had already removed Morocco from its blacklist, hailing the kingdom's "significant progress" in the fight against money laundering and the funding of terrorism.

According to the president of the Morocco's Financial Intelligence Handling Unit (UTRF), the country has made great strides over the past few years.

"The UTRF will be able to speed up the pace of its work, especially in terms of strengthening the legal arsenal necessary to bring the national system for tackling terrorism financing into line with international recommendations," Hassan Alaoui Abdellaoui told Magharebia on December 3rd.

His unit acts on domestic reports of suspicious activity. It also receives requests from international authorities to freeze assets of parties linked to terrorism offences.

Morocco's intelligence-sharing with other countries has also expanded, the UTRF says.

The number of shared pieces of intelligence rose from just one in 2009 to 120 in 2012. Europe is the biggest requester of intelligence, followed by the Middle East and North Africa.

Morocco has also amended its law on money laundering to address the issue of terrorism financing.

Under the 2013 amendment, the funding of terrorism is itself considered an act of terrorism, even when committed outside Morocco's borders and regardless of whether the money is actually spent.

While Morocco has made considerable progress in tackling money laundering and terrorism financing, much remains to be done to close in on criminal and terrorist networks, political analyst Malek Chbihi tells Magharebia.

"We must remain vigilant and refine the legal and monitoring arsenal so that we can combat the problem effectively," Chbihi says.

"Regional and international co-operation is essential to put an end to the activities of organised criminal networks," the analyst adds.

Salma Rifi, a teacher, says that despite the vigilance of the security services, Morocco is not safe from acts of terrorism.

For this reason, she says, it is vital to form more partnerships and tighten up surveillance within banks in order to detect fraudulent transactions.

But she adds that "hard evidence of terrorism financing must be found before charges are brought against the people concerned".

"We mustn't lapse into hysteria," she says.

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