ISIS generates $100 m annually smuggling Syria, Iraq artifacts

Artifacts looted by ISIS
Artifacts looted by ISIS

ISIS makes as much as $100 million annually by trafficking looted antiquities out of Iraq and Syria and selling them on the black market, the Newsweek reported on Monday.

The Wall Street Journal revealed that while it was not possible to put a precise figure on the amount of revenue generated for ISIS by the trade of the artifacts, an unnamed French security official believed it to be around $100 million. Estimates from other sources ranged from the low tens of millions upward.

The trade in items stolen from Iraq and Syria’s historical sites has become important to the terrorist group, as its territory, and by extension its ability to count on oil revenues, dwindles. 

“ISIS is increasing pressure on this line of trafficking to compensate for the loss of petroleum revenue,” the French security official was quoted by the Journal as saying.

For many Syrian traders and smugglers deprived from the country’s six-year civil war, selling the antiquities has become a necessity. 

One so-called middleman, Muhammad Hajj al-Hassan, described how ISIS overran his home in Syria and nearly executed him on suspicion of his sympathy for the Free Syrian Army (FSA). 

He later reluctantly began trading artifacts for ISIS to European buyers at the request of Abu Laith Al-Dairi, the group’s head of antiquities.

The importance ISIS places on the trade of antiquities is reflected in the group's use of foreign terrorists to manage its operation. The cadre of international terrorists is considered more loyal than their local counterparts.

Locals are given licenses by ISIS to dig for antiquities. Their licenses were initially free, but now the group charges 20 percent of the value of each object evacuated. 

ISIS demands that all discovered items be resold directly to the terrorist group itself; it then reaches out to dealers.


Last Modified: 08 08 2017 11:24 AM

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