Financing Terrorism One Cigarette At A Time? – [Eurasia Review] OpEd

From: Eurasia Review


11/13, the day of the ghastly Paris attacks, is a date that will go down in our collective memory as Europe’s 9/11. In the confusion and cacophony of reactions that followed the events, from the pledges to heighten security, mobilize the army, close the borders, and all the way to the solemn promises of ‘never again’, one element was sorely absent – cracking down on the way terrorists are funded. Indeed, one needs not just a deranged individual armed with a radical ideology and a death wish, but also wads of cash to finance recruitment, training, weapons purchases and building bombs. And oddly, unlike closing down borders, nipping the cash flow of terrorists is actually easier than it sounds. Why? Because one of the most likely products to be smuggled and used to light the fires of terrorist attacks is…cigarettes.

Indeed, thanks to their ubiquity, ease of manufacturing and the lows risks involved, cigarette smuggling is booming. Experts estimate that contraband costs governments worldwide $40 to $60 billion in lost tax revenue every year – a consistent fraction of that money making its way into the pockets of terrorist organizations worldwide. Al Qaeda, ISIS, Hezbollah, Hamas, FARC, IRA, ETA, PKK, ISIS, al-Nusra Front, have all relied on tobacco smuggling to line their war chests.

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