Authorities in Indonesia have detected diverse fundraising strategies among terror groups, as illustrated by the recent bust of a terror financing cell in Medan, Sumatra.
"It is surprising that their assets were not only purchased with money that they got from robbery, but also from Internet-based fraud where they were able to hack some multi-level marketing company websites," Ansyaad Mbai, chief of Indonesia's National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT), told reporters in Jakarta on June 20th.
The government has been able to thwart fundraising efforts in Medan and in Solo, Central Java, but terrorists are working hard to find more sources of revenue, he said.
"They are now using their brains to devise new ways to raise more funding," he added.
Ansyaad spoke after police seized suspected terror assets in Medan worth nearly 8 billion rupiah ($850,000) in the form of a shop, four houses, three cars, and seven motorbikes.
He said the cell that amassed those assets had also funded paramilitary training in conflict areas and terrorism operations, including the September 2011 church attack in Solo, in which a suicide bomber injured nearly 30 people.
The suspect who led police to the assets, Rizki Gunawan, has a background in accounting and IT and allegedly hacked into the website for Investasi Online (Investment Online), a Jakarta Post report said.
Rizki, arrested at a Jakarta train station in early May, is one of five suspects in the Solo church bombing, National Police spokesman Senior Commander Boy Rafli said. He has also been linked to militant activities in Poso, Central Sulawesi, he said.
"Preliminary investigations show that the group's activities were supporting terrorist operations, including paramilitary training in Poso," said Boy.
Rizki not only joined in the training, but successfully channeled 667 million rupiah ($70,770) to support it, Boy alleged. Rizki was not only skilled at hacking, but also adept at making bombs and firearms.
Extremists resort to drug trafficking to raise money
Meanwhile, Ansyaad told reporters, the mushrooming narcotics industry is providing another source of funding for terrorism. Authorities have been aware of the "narco-terrorism" connection since early 2011.
"The terrorist groups use illegal drug trafficking to raise money for funding terrorism. The intelligence has found indications that this was true in the Fadli Sadama case," he told Khabar.
Fadli Sadama was captured in Malaysia in October 2010 and extradited to Indonesia. In September 2011, the Medan District Court sentenced him to 11 years in jail for supplying weapons to a terrorist group that robbed the Medan branch of the CIMB Niaga Bank. He is believed to have smuggled amphetamines from Malaysia to finance terrorism.
Emphasising that terrorism remains a huge threat for Indonesia, Ansyaad warned young people not to support current terrorism fundraising efforts by using or selling drugs and narcotics.
According to Noor Huda Ismail, a terrorism expert and founder of the Institute for International Peace Building, Internet-based crime has long been another way for extremists to raise money.
"Imam Samudra hacked customer bank accounts [via the Internet] to obtain funding for terrorism. He mentioned it in his book," Noor Huda said on July 9th.
One of three Bali bombers put to death in 2008, Samudra published an autobiography from prison in late 2004 that included a chapter on hacking.
Evidence from his laptop computer showed he had tried to collect money for the 2002 attacks through online credit card fraud, according to police, but it was unclear whether he succeeded.
Noor Huda expressed his frustration that the legal system has not been able to connect all the dots on terrorism funding.
"One of the challenges for the Indonesian courts is to prove these circumstances. Since the 2002 Bali bombing, the court has not found any evidence, such as bank transfer receipts, to prove where the funding comes from," he said.