Little attempt being made to assess far-right extremist funding, report warns

With attention on groups such as ISIS, counter-terror investigators are not looking into the far-right

Far-right activist Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, who goes by the name Tommy Robinson, speaks outside the Houses of Parliament at a pro-Brexit demonstration in London, Britain March 29, 2019. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis
Powered by automated translation

Attempts to disrupt and investigate the funding of far-right extremism lags well behind similar work into ISIS-like groups, a report has warned.

Little effort has been made to understand the evolving ways and “overlooked phenomenon” that far-right groups and people are supported financially.

This is despite the UK’s interior minister reporting a 36 per cent increase in 2018 in the number of suspected right-wing extremists being referred to the government's deradicalisation programme.

The report by the Royal United Services Institute also urged the private sector, such as banks and social media companies, to boost their coordination in order to stem the spread of hate.

The cooperation between Facebook and PayPal to limit the influence of anti-Muslim campaigner Tommy Robinson - real name Stephen Yaxley Lennon - was cited as a good example.

“A coordinated and harmonised approach is needed if extremist actors are not easily to find other channels for promoting and financing their activity,” said the paper.

“Despite the significant threats posed by extreme right-wing groups and, specifically, extreme right-wing terrorism… it would appear that very limited focus is applied to the funding of these groups and individuals,” the research found.

Identifying and stopping the financing of terror groups was “exclusively confined” to groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda, it said.

It was found that right-wing extremists were becoming ever more resourceful in circumventing attempts to stop their cash flow

For instance, the ‘de-platforming’ of far-right figures from mainstream fundraising sites such as GoFundMe or Patreon meant extremists had moved onto alternatives such as the similarly named GoyFundMe or Hatreon.

They are also turning to cryptocurrency as bank or cash transfers become more difficult.

The report cited research that argued cryptocurrencies were especially appealing to right-wing extremists because they represented a “historical mistrust of global financial systems”.

Ultimately the paper warned that while right-wing extremism may not always be violent and indeed is not considered a criminal offence in some countries, it is still “inextricably linked” to terrorism.

“What begins as right-wing extremism may progress rapidly into right-wing terrorism, as vividly illustrated by the transition of the Christchurch killer from online postings to murderous action,” the research said.

While fringe out-and-out violent actors struggled to attract significant funding, entrenched "mainstream" extreme groups or individuals are backed by “deep-pocketed donors”.

International financial links between different groups remains a topic of contention amongst experts but it is generally accepted that given the prevalence of seemingly linked far-right groups, there must be some level of global connectivity.

One example is Generation Identity, which started in France in 2012 and has spread to the UK, Germany, Austria, Italy and further afield. Reports say it is linked to Identity Evropa, one of the groups being a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.

There is also an increased understanding into the significance of specific numbers that could be indicate a transaction by far-right groups – a phenomenon distinct from other extremist groups.

For example, the first letter of the alphabet is A and the eighth is H – this would generally be accepted to be referring to AH or Adolph Hitler.

Another, which was scrawled across the weapons and magazines used by the Christchurch shooter, is 1683. This was the date of the Battle of Vienna, viewed by the extremist as the moment the Ottoman Empire’s fortunes began to fall.

“Today’s low-priority risk could become tomorrow’s high priority threat, and developing a financial analysis and understanding of these groups, their activities and facilitators is imperative as part of an enhanced response,” the report concluded.