St Maarten key in terrorism funding

5th October 2007, Comments 0 comments

5 October 2007, AMSTERDAM (dpa) - The Dutch Caribbean island of St Maarten allegedly serves as a distribution centre for the international drug trade and the financing of terrorist activities in the Palestinian territories and Afghanistan, it was reported Friday.

5 October 2007

AMSTERDAM (dpa) - The Dutch Caribbean island of St Maarten allegedly serves as a distribution centre for the international drug trade and the financing of terrorist activities in the Palestinian territories and Afghanistan, it was reported Friday.

Reports were based on information leaked from a confidential report by the Dutch Justice Ministry on organised crime on the island. The 175-page report, dated June 2007, was prepared by the Justice Ministry's Academic and Research Documentation Centre (WODC).

The investigation began in 2004 at the request of the former minister of justice of the Dutch Antilles.

The report's six researchers refer to investigative sources in St Maarten claiming to have information about money transfers from the island to terrorist organisations in the Middle East.

Large sums of money are allegedly transferred from bank accounts on the Dutch island to organisations linked to the Taliban in Afghanistan and the militant Palestinian Hamas movement.

The money originates from the drug trade and human trafficking, the researchers said.

St Maarten's strategic location, "between drug producing and drug consuming countries," contributes to its alleged central role in drug transports, according to the report.

Criminals on the island are involved in the transport of a variety of drugs, such as cocaine, heroine, marijuana, and, to a lesser degree, synthetic drugs, researchers said.

People from all nationalities on the island are presumed to be involved in the drug trade. Drug smuggling takes place either at sea, the report says, via ships exchanging goods, or via individual couriers travelling by air.

A company located on the island is also suspected of transferring money to the Taliban, the researchers say, referring to a request by authorities in the United States to investigate the company.

There are also indications that St Maarten is used by certain people to enter the US.

It is alleged people on the island have been trained in al-Qaeda training camps. Others are reportedly registered on a US list of people not permitted to travel to the US by aeroplane.

The report is not conclusive about the allegations. The researchers indicate the Dutch are not as pessimistic as the US about the situation on the island.

The island area of Sint Maarten, with its population of around 30,000 in 2001, is one of five island areas of the Netherlands Antilles. It is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, though not in the European Union.

The area encompasses the southern half of the island of Sint Maarten. The northern half is French.

Administratively, Sint Maarten is comparable to a municipality. It is ruled by an island council, an executive council, and an administrator appointed by the Dutch Queen.

On 15 December 2008, Sint Maarten is due to become a separate country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

[Copyright dpa 2007]

Subject: Dutch news

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