Following the original trail from Martin Chulov’s Guardian article, CTV’s Josh Elliot approached a security intelligence consultant for the Soufan Group (@TheSoufanGroup), Robert McFadden (@RobertMcFadde18), who said that (paraphrased by Elliot) the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham(1) ‘adds to its coffers by selling valuable antiquities seized during its takeovers’; and that, when it takes control of an area, the first thing it does is ‘to go after the wealth of those from ethnic and religious minorities‘.
Collectors – in this case, especially collectors of Eastern Christian art and Armenian and Assyrian cultural property – take note. If you buy looted cultural property, you are not rescuing it for the robbed community, you are paying for them to be robbed and displaced. And you are paying a lot. If the seller cannot prove the legal origins of their property, they cannot guarantee you that you are not paying for the ethnic and religious cleansing of a community. Do you want to risk being responsible for that? Do you want to deal with people who are so irresponsible that they don’t care?
Money, money, money
Building on the CTV report, AllVoices’ Dava Castillo used Money Jihad‘s review of the world’s five richest terrorist groups to corroborate that ISIS is now ‘the wealthiest terrorist organization in the world’.
When Foreign Policy‘s Yochi Dreazen looked into it, an American intelligence official stated that ISIS had taken ‘tens of millions from [the central bank in] Mosul, not hundreds of millions’, and an American counter-terrorism official stated that ‘money from outside donors… pales in comparison to their self-funding‘.
Analysts believed that ISIS had – or, before its most recent conquests, had had ‘between $100 million and $200 million’. If that is correct, then antiquities trafficking – which may have raised up to $36m in al-Nabk alone – will have been a major source of funding for the development of the paramilitary organisation.
1: Also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, its names/abbreviations include Da’ash, Da’esh, ISIL and ISIS.