Terrorist Suspects in Europe Got Welfare Benefits While Plotting Attacks

Mark Maremont and Valentina Pop, Wall Street Journal, August 4, 2016

Belgian financial investigators looking into recent terror plots have discovered a disturbing trend: Some of the suspects were collecting welfare benefits until shortly before they carried out their attacks.

At least five of the alleged plotters in the Paris and Brussels terror attacks partly financed themselves with payments from Belgium’s generous social-welfare system, authorities have concluded. In total they received more than €50,000, or about $56,000 at today’s rate.

The main surviving Paris suspect, Salah Abdeslam, collected unemployment benefits until three weeks before the November attacks—€19,000 in all, according to people familiar with the case. At the time, he was manager and part-owner of a bar, which Belgian officials say should have made him ineligible.

Many of the participants in a disrupted Belgian terror plot also had been on the dole, according to the judge who sentenced more than a dozen people in the so-called Verviers cell last month. {snip}


“We’ve identified that the benefit system is vulnerable to abuse for terrorist financing purposes,” said Tom Keatinge, director of the Centre for Financial Crime and Security Studies at the Royal United Services Institute in London. “What are we going to do about that?”

European governments may want to give benefits in the form of vouchers, or re-examine their hands-off approach to how people spend their benefits, Mr. Keatinge said. “If you’re paying benefit to people in certain parts of Brussels, maybe you need to be a little more observant about who you’re paying to, and what they might be doing with it.”

All of the Paris and Brussels terror suspects known to have received welfare were EU citizens.


Topics: , , , ,

Share This

We welcome comments that add information or perspective, and we encourage polite debate. If you log in with a social media account, your comment should appear immediately. If you prefer to remain anonymous, you may comment as a guest, using a name and an e-mail address of convenience. Your comment will be moderated.