France to press U.S. on 'low-cost' terror financing

By John Irish

NEW YORK (Reuters) - France's finance minister will discuss with his U.S. counterpart on Thursday how to standardise rules across countries to prevent small, anonymous money transfers believed to be used to finance attacks such as Islamic State's assault on Paris in November.

Finance ministers of the United Nations Security Council's member countries are meeting in New York to pass a resolution to cut funding for Islamic State.

Before the meeting, Michel Sapin said it was crucial to deal with smaller, hidden transactions to prevent attacks, which he said could be financed with as little as 10,000 to 30,000 euros ($10,800 to $32,400).

"The characteristic of this terrorism is that it is low-cost terrorism but with considerable impact," Sapin told reporters in New York before meeting U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.

"If we want to avoid these acts we have to have a larger capacity to spot these small movements that can take place in dangerous circles or among individuals that could be dangerous."

Sapin pointed specifically to the use of pre-paid bank cards which can be charged by individuals for hundreds of euros and transferred across frontiers to another card. Neither cardholder needs to identify themselves.

French authorities say the system was used by the Paris attackers to transfer money for the Paris attacks between Belgium and France.

"The idea is not to ban the technology because it's badly used, but to see how the anonymity can be stopped," he said. "This all depends on the quality of information exchange between countries."

Sapin also said he wanted to target means of payment such as digital currency bitcoin, or mobile phone apps that facilitate cash transfers.

"Carrying bundles of cash in bags is no longer used. Terrorists have a capacity to use all the new technologies to transfer money around so we need together have identical rules in countries," he said.

France and Germany already want an EU money laundering directive to be implemented into national legislation in member states before the existing deadline of mid-2017.

"Regulations have been put in place in France, there is a directive in Europe on this and I want to discuss this with the U.S. authorities to see how we could have the same regulations across all countries," Sapin said.

French finance ministry officials have been critical of U.S. authorities not answering French requests for access to financial information concerning suspects tied to last month's attacks in Paris.

(Reporting By John Irish; Editing by Bill Rigby)