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Women 'smuggle terror cash abroad'


 Amal El Wahabi was jailed for trying to smuggle funds to jihadists

Amal El Wahabi was jailed for trying to smuggle funds to jihadists

Amal El Wahabi was jailed for trying to smuggle funds to jihadists

Women are being used to smuggle money out of Britain to fund terrorists abroad, a senior police officer has warned.

Terrorists are emulating criminal gangs and using women to courier their cash because they believe they will arouse less suspicion.

Other Britons are abusing their student loans and welfare benefits to bankroll terrorism in Syria and across the world, Assistant Commander Terri Nicholson, from the counter-terrorism command, said.

The stark warnings came as police continue their counter-terrorism awareness week, focusing today on the fight against the financing of illicit groups.

Ms Nicholson said: "Terrorists will frequently use people who are not known to the police or security services to courier money. This is a common method.

"This is the case in any type of criminality - drug couriers are no different. It is far better in many cases to use somebody who is not known to law enforcement or the security services, and females absolutely are used by both criminals and terrorists alike to move funds."

The warning came after British mother Amal El Wahabi was jailed for more than two years for trying to arrange to smuggle 20,000 euros to her husband, who is believed to be a jihadi fighting in Syria.

She duped her friend Nawal Msaad into taking the cash abroad stashed in her knickers,.

But the plot was foiled when border police discovered the cash at Heathrow Airport in January. Msaad was cleared of funding terrorism by a jury at the Old Bailey earlier this year.

Ms Nicholson said the El Wahabi case was "not unique" and many terrorists use women to courier cash. But they are highly innovative, and will use multiple guises and ploys to funnel cash across borders.

She said some masqueraded as charities and duped money out of hardworking Britons, while others "abused" their student loans and welfare benefits to bankroll terrorism, she added.

Most money smuggled internationally to fund terrorism is believed to come from "little and lots" of cash transfers, but some are branching out and using controversial online currencies known as bitcoins.

Ms Nicholson said: "Terrorists are innovative and will use innovative methods to mask the source of the funds.

"We are seeing a diverse fraud including substantial fraud online, abuse of the benefits system, abuse of student loans, in order to fund terrorism.

"We have had a number of cases in recent times where student loans have been abused to fund both crime and terrorism.

"We have seen some cases where virtual currency are being considered and used by both criminals and terrorists. And so we are increasing our understanding of the abuse of those methods."

She urged the public to be vigilant when donating to charities to ensure their money reaches the right people and is not diverted by "undesirable individuals".

In the past 18 months, police in London have seized £2.5 million destined for criminal and terrorist gangs.

Ms Nicholson said police are adopting a "cradle to the grave approach" to finding and stopping the financing of terrorism.

She said: "Together with the security service, we work extremely closely to understand those individuals who are at the heart of the terrorist financing effort and the enablers to that activity, because to cut off that supply route is the critical aim."