Allegedly according to Interpol, “Islamic State pockets $100 million yearly from heritage booty [conflict antiquities]”!?

I’m still working on long-form research, including research into matters relevant to this post, but I wanted to post this now. If Interpol said this, my first guess would be that they were given data on the basis of which they had no other option but to say this… I look forward to seeing the evidence.

Apparently, Middle East Eye has been told what Iraq was told by Interpol at a private meeting under the auspices of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Quoted and paraphrased by journalist James Reinl, the Ambassador of Iraq to the United Nations, Mohammed Alhakim, relayed that ‘Interpol gave us a number of $100 million a year‘ for the amount that the Islamic State made “by selling antiquities they have plundered from archaeological sites and museums across Iraq and Syria”.

There is no information about how that number was calculated. It seems somewhat implausible that Interpol have broken up an illicit antiquities trading structure, which had been making $100m a year for a terrorist pseudo-state, but not publicised that operation. It also seems somewhat implausible that Interpol have gathered enough intelligence to know that the Islamic State is making $100m a year by selling antiquities, which would encompass knowledge of buyers and sellers and routes and methods in places that can be policed, but not intervened to prevent it doing so.

Ambassador Alhakim also noted that Interpol has registered 2,700 documented antiquities that have been stolen from Iraq and 1,300 documented antiquities that have been stolen from Syria. Aren’t they simply the total numbers of known-but-unsolved cases in those countries (including cases that happened before the conflict or outside the conflict)? If so, are they really relevant to the matter at hand?

Who gave Interpol the raw data on which it based its calculation/estimate? It is my understanding that – at least until recently – Interpol did not even know the number of looted sites in Syria and Iraq, let alone who was responsible for looting them or how much money they made by doing so.

Is this estimate based on the source-end income from the documented antiquities that are known to have disappeared from cultural heritage institutions and archaeological sites under the control of the Islamic State (which is a fraction of the black market value of those antiquities, which is itself a fraction of the licit market value)? If not, what is it?

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