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27 November 2014, 11:33
A senior officer of the Metropolitan Police's counter-terrorism unit is warning that women are being used to smuggle money out of Britain to fund terrorists abroad.
Assistant Commander Terri Nicholson says extremists are using women to courier their cash because they believe they will arouse less suspicion.
The 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: "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."