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Crime-Terror Nexus

Aim: To study the convergence of criminal and jihadist social networks, environments, or milieus in Europe.

ICSR released a groundbreaking report on this subject in October 2016, challenging long-held assumptions about jihadist recruitment and financing.

For this study, a multi-lingual team of ICSR researchers compiled a database containing the profiles of 79 European jihadists with criminal pasts.

Our team discovered that criminal and terrorist groups have come to recruit from the same pool of people in Europe, creating (often unintended) synergies and overlaps that have consequences for how individuals radicalise and operate. This is what we call the new crime-terror nexus.

Among our key findings and recommendations are:

  • Jihadists not only condone the use of ‘ordinary’ criminality to raise funds, they have argued that doing so is the ideologically correct way of waging ‘jihad’ in the ‘lands of war’. Combined with large numbers of former criminals in their ranks, this will make financing attacks through crime not only possible and legitimate but, increasingly, their first choice.
  • Already, up to 40 per cent of terrorist plots in Europe are at least part-financed through ‘petty crime’, especially drug-dealing, theft, robberies, the sale of counterfeit goods, loan fraud, and burglaries. Based on our database, jihadists tend to continue doing what they are familiar with, which means that terrorist financing by criminal means will become more important as the number of former criminals is increasing.
  • Data sharing: Just like the lines between crime and terrorism have become blurred, relevant agencies need to break down institutional silos and become more effective at sharing relevant information across departments and ‘disciplines’. Counter-terrorism, customs, intelligence services, criminal police, and even outside actors need to share information, conduct joint training, and participate in early warning systems.
  • New partnerships: More important than before are relationships with civil society and local authorities who know more about communities, local dynamics and relationships, than law enforcement and the intelligence agencies. Another potentially valuable tool are public-private partnerships, because businesses are affected by many of the crimes described in this report, and – in addition to wanting to be seen as good ‘citizens’ – they typically have a commercial interest in countering smuggling, fraud, or the trade in counterfeit goods.
  • The 2016 report ‘Criminal Pasts, Terrorist Futures: European Jihadists and the New Crime-Terror Nexus’ is available here.