August 18, 2014

Thomson Reuters and West Point's Combating Terrorism Center Release New Study on Illicit Behavior

Connectivity between terrorist and criminal activity is highest in developed, resource-rich countries, and those with policies actively supporting criminal elements bucking conventional assumptions

NEW YORK – Thomson Reuters today announced the publication of a new study in conjunction with The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, which looks at the interrelationship between illicit activity in economic and political arenas. The report, Risky Business: The Global Threat Network and the Politics of Contraband, utilizes Thomson Reuters Accelus World-Check data and examines the relationships of those who produce and profit from illicit activity for financial or political purposes.

This study is based on one of the first comprehensive, open-source, data-driven assessments of the global transnational illicit network. It looks across a range of illicit activities that include terrorism, the illegal narcotics trade, organized crime, human smuggling and political corruption. The networkanalysis includes 2,700 individuals linked by 15,000 relationships spanning 122 countries.

Key findings include:

  • Connectivity among actors within the illicit marketplace is relatively high. This should not be construed to say that the network is a cohesive organizational entity. Rather, the phenomenon is a self-organizing complex system built through social connections from the bottom up.
  • By most measures of connectivity, terrorists are more interconnected than almost all other types of criminals, second only to narcotics smugglers. The transnational nature of terrorist actors allows them to link disparate criminal groups.
  • An analysis of social connections shows that 35 percent of the links that criminals and suspicious individuals maintain cross into terrorism.
  • Connectivity between terrorists and criminals is highest in resource-rich countries which challenges conventional wisdom that assumes this is a product of failed or economically poor states. However, the study found there is connectivity among poor countries that use criminality as an economic or national security tool.
  • Identifying financial irregularities is critical to tracking dirty money, questionable transactions and illicit actors. Many government agencies are not training analysts in the intelligence or defense communities to think about the convergence of commerce, economics and threats. This skill gap represents a challenge confronting law enforcement and national security authorities.

"As counterterrorism continues to evolve, government organizations and law enforcement agencies are looking for better ways to identify, analyze and track illicit crime," says David Craig, President, Financial & Risk at Thomson Reuters. "This groundbreaking report is one of the first studies of its kind that is data-driven on the transnational illicit network. It looks at the bigger picture of the global threat network and how data compiled by Thomson Reuters can shed light on different aspects of both political and financial crime and terror, and is a great example of how our Accelus World-Check data can not only be utilized in financial services, but in the private and public defense and intelligence industry."

"We are extremely pleased to have partnered with Thomson Reuters on this report," says Scott Helfstein, non-resident fellow and former director of research at West Point. "Counterterrorism is an extremely complex subject matter and this report challenges the conventional views that many have on illicit activity. Thomson Reuters Accelus World-Check proved to be a critical source in the development of this report and over the next decade we expect data-driven studies such as this to become more prevalent amongst both the public and private sectors."

"We are delighted to have joined forces with West Point's Combating Terrorism Center," said John Solomon, director of threat finance, Accelus World-Check at Thomson Reuters. "‘Risky Business' shows how data-driven intelligence analysis can inform strategic insight. Coupling world-class data and analytics can lead to smarter counterterrorism and risk mitigation for banks, businesses and governments as they chart a course through an extremely complex global risk landscape."

Thomson Reuters Accelus World-Check is a trusted authority for uncovering hidden risk. World-Check data is structured into individual profiles, linked where associations or networks exist, and contain multiple secondary identifiers that dramatically improve name matching accuracy during screening. The World-Check research infrastructure spans the globe covering over 240 countries and territories around the clock. As well as supporting the regulatory need to identify politically exposed persons (PEPs), over 200 research analysts also target specific risks such as terrorism, organized crime, sanctions and the Middle East, covering all known sanctions and regulatory lists and exceeding sanction list terrorism coverage by tens of thousands of profiles. 

To download Risky Business: The Global Threat Network and the Politics of Contraband, go to:

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