Yet another reason for quietness on the blog is that my computer is broken, but I just saw this story via Money Jihad and wanted to highlight it, not because it is evidence of significant trafficking of antiquities to finance the civil war in Syria, but because it is evidence of insignificant trafficking. As with the evidence of looting-to-order, it is important to remember that conflict antiquities trafficking involves petty theft as well as grand larceny, burglaries by fundraisers outside as well as plunder by combatants in the war zone.
As reported by Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) in the Local and Yuriko Wahl-Immel in Katholisch and the Südwest Presse, police caught an eight-person gang that was breaking into churches and schools, performing ‘severe robberies and theft [schweren Raub und Diebstahl]’, ‘severe gang robbery [Bandendiebstahl]’, in ‘preparation of severe seditious violence [Vorbereitung einer schweren staatsgefährdenden Gewalttat]’ (or, alternatively, a grave atrocity or an act of severe terrorism) for the Islamic State.
The case concerns the theft of assets that are worth €19,000 and the gang’s attempt to steal the treasury from the vault of a chapel, during which it was disturbed. It is not known whether the gang is suspected of other robberies. The proceeds of the crime(s) were going to be delivered to the Syrian end of the operation by disguising them as a charitable donation.
One member is also suspected of defrauding social services in order to cover the costs of “pilgrimage [Pilgerfahrt]” to Saudi Arabia and/or activity in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia is a leading warring party in the deadly and destructive internationalised “civil war”, in which there is iconoclastic violence as well as “collateral damage”.
According to Chief Prosecutor Nadja Gudermann, between 2011 and 2014, an eight-person gang ‘stole collection boxes, crosses and other objects “dedicated to church services and religious veneration”‘ such as wine goblets for Mass (“Messbecher” (1)) and chandeliers from churches and ‘laptops, money and a cash card’ from schools in Cologne and Siegen, which were ‘used to finance jihadist fighters in the Syrian civil war’. The card was used to buy easily resold gold jewelry from a boutique in Cologne.
The 26-year-old Moroccan German ringleader, who previously snuck out of Germany through Belgium and Turkey and undertook (para)military training in Syria, also incited (para)military service for the Islamic State on YouTube: ‘Get up, pack your bags and go to Syria [Steht auf, packt eure Koffer und geht nach Syrien]’. It is not known how much of the profit was used to finance violence, how much was used to finance incitement to violence and how much was used to finance the fundraising operation itself.
1: I do not know whether the object is described differently in German or whether the words that form its name have been contracted slightly; however, while a “Messbecher” is invariably translated as a “measuring beaker” or “measuring jug”, it is also the beaker that is used in the Mass service (the Holy Eucharist or Divine Liturgy). In order to show that “Messbecher” can be mean “Mass beaker”, here is an example, which is purely linguistic and completely unrelated to the criminal case. It may also be described as a wine “chalice [Kelch]”.