There is no greater threat to the world than terrorism. Terrorist organizations are no different than any normal business. They need funds to operate and to carry out their missions. There is clear and convincing evidence that terrorist organizations have used counterfeiting and piracy as a source of raising revenue for their causes.
IP Crimes create a perfect opportunity for these organizations to raise huge sums of money while not attracting too much attention from law enforcement officials. The amount of money that these groups can earn is endless. The consumer demand for counterfeit goods is very high and thus it creates a very easy avenue for terrorists to reap large rewards from their sales of counterfeit goods. The common perception of IP Crimes is that there is not much money to be made and that it is just some guy trying to make a living. This could not be further from the truth. These groups can make millions of dollars a year through the sales of counterfeit goods. There are numerous documented cases that have linked the sales of counterfeit goods and terrorists together. All types of terrorist groups have become involved in the sales and distribution of counterfeit and pirated goods. The following groups have been linked to various IP Crimes:
- Al Qaeda
- Northern Ireland Paramilitary Groups
- ETA – The Basque Terrorist Group
According to various sources in the media and law enforcement, The FBI developed compelling evidence that the terrorists responsible for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center was financed at least partially by the sales of counterfeit goods from a store, located in New York. A hearing in 1995 before the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmed this fact.
In 1996, The FBI conducted an extensive investigation into the sales and distribution of counterfeit T-shirts that were to be sold during the Olympics. The FBI ended up seizing over 100,000 counterfeit shirts. The FBI’s investigation determined that the organization was being operated by followers of the radical Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind cleric that was convicted of plotting to bomb New York City landmarks. Sheik Rahman is currently serving a 240 year sentence in a federal prison.
In a 2002 article by John von Radowitz, he confirmed that seized Al Qaeda terrorist training manuals listed the sales of fake goods as one means of raising funds to support Al Qaeda’s terrorist operations. The same article confirmed that Hezbollah also trafficked in counterfeit pharmaceuticals.
In February 2003, the ringleader of a major cigarette smuggling operation was sentenced to 155 years in prison. The ringleader of the organization, Mohamad Hammoud is suspected of funneling large sums of the money he raised from his smuggling operations to Hezbollah. Hezbollah is suspected of using the sales of counterfeit goods, along with other crimes to raise money here in the United States for the operations in the Middle East. In 2005, Lt. John Stedman of The Los
Angeles County Sheriff’s Department testified before a United States
Senate Committee on how counterfeit goods were being used to raise
money for terrorist organizations.
In a case in Los Angeles county California, a known member of Hezbollah was arrested for the sales of counterfeit goods. The subject had the Hezbollah tattoo on his arm. The Hezbollah member was operating a store selling hip hop clothing. The photograph of the tattoo appeared in an Los Angeles Times article covering the 2005 Senate Hearings.
In November 2007, several suspected Hezbollah members and supporters were indicted federally in Los Angeles for the sales of counterfeit goods, along the importation and trafficking in narcotics. The investigation was completed by multiple law enforcement agencies tasked with counter terrorism investigations. The subjects indicted again were operating small retail stores selling counterfeit goods. Paramilitary Groups in Northern Ireland have also utilized the sales
of counterfeit goods to raise money for their organizations. It was reported in a 2002 U.S. Customs newsletter that the group was selling counterfeit goods, including counterfeit Lion King merchandise. According to Operation Green Quest, a Treasury Department Taskforce tasked with terrorism related investigations, counterfeiting and piracy are recognized methods that terrorists are using to raise funds for their causes.
Various law enforcement agencies tasked with terrorism investigations have acknowledged that they truly believe that various terrorist organizations are utilizing the sales, distribution, and manufacturing of counterfeit goods as a source of raising money for their causes. There are numerous media articles and other sources of information that clearly tie the sales of counterfeit goods and terrorist organizations together. It is difficult to locate in depth and detailed accounts of these operations, due to the fact that most of the information and details are considered classified. One thing is very clear, IP Crimes create an easy opportunity for terrorist groups to discreetly raise money for their causes. It is very easy to understand why these groups have become involved in counterfeiting and piracy.