Sanctions imposed by the United States Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) on four Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and ISIS-Mozambique (ISIS-M) financial facilitators in South Africa should serve as a wake-up call to Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana.
Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow deputy finance minister Ashor Sarupen urged Godongwana to take “urgent action to protect the reputation of South Africa’s financial system”. This includes closing accounts used for funding terrorism and referring irregular transactions to law enforcement.
“The DA further urges the Minister to work with foreign treasury departments to ensure existing cases of South Africa being used as a base to finance terrorism is ended with haste.”
Independent security analyst Richard Chelin is reported by Johannesburg daily The Citizen as saying sanctioning South Africa-based ISIS agents indicated what was already known about the threat ISIS posed locally, especially in the finance sector.
Terrorist groups would be attracted by the efficiency of the financial system to bring in cash and fund operations.
Chelin said this further confirmed what scholars, analysts and researchers have said over the last few years, South Africa needs to be more careful, especially in terms of finance and take terrorism financing prevention seriously.
“It’s good thing the US has reached that point and this presents more awareness now for officials in financial institutions to be more careful and scrutinise finances and their clients even more,” he said.
The way forward is to further apply financial regulations dealing with terrorism financing worldwide, which he maintains South Africa is “quite good at”.
He said it was important to see why instances of ISIS operations were not picked up, go forward from there and determine ways to strengthen the system.