Posts Tagged ‘cultural property’

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Raid lifted veil on ISIS’s smuggling records

October 15, 2015

Recently declassified materials show the extent to which an Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) financier used antiquities smuggling for revenues.  The scope of ISIS’s reliance on smuggling artifacts has been a point of disagreement among analysts for several years.  The indications from a May raid against ISIS are that at least hundreds of millions of dollars worth of transactions have been involved.  Roll tape from CBS News:

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What can be done: looting counter-offensive

July 21, 2015

Deutsche Welle has interviewed archeologist Mark Altaweel about the Islamic State of Iraq’s plundering of antiquities.  DW asked Altaweel what can be done to help stop this problem, and he offered some good ideas:

First, try to learn a little bit from blood diamonds – put a stigma on these things so that people are not buying ancient antiquities. It’s hard to say for a lot of these things if they are truly coming from Syria or Iraq. I think if we put a negative stigma on buying antiquities – that would help. It’s not completely possible for the police to control this.

Second, I do think we need some kind of high-profile police action to put a little more deterrence and certainly tighten up the laws and continue to pressure countries like Turkey and Lebanon [to stop] receiving these objects near their borders. I know Turkey has been clamping down a little more lately, which is good. But Lebanon certainly needs to be held accountable.

Good point.  A UN resolution and a lawsuit by a dig site in Iraq against a museum in Istanbul or Beirut won’t get very far very fast.  But putting some dealers in jail immediately would make a definite impression.  Or arrest some of the middlemen smugglers and get them to turn against their overlords.

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How Baathists cashed in before checking out

July 19, 2015

Further clues have emerged that that the looting of museums following the 2003 invasion of Iraq wasn’t really the result of lax security or random looters from the street.  It was probably a systematic inside job by an organized syndicate of corrupt Baathist officials before they went underground.  The antiquities they stole were either sold to help fund the insurgency or were kept by former officials who later joined AQI which became ISIS.

At least the Washington Post reported on the discovery (h/t MFS001), although it buried the most important connection in paragraph 15 of a 17 paragraph article (in bold below, emphasis mine):

Artifacts looted during the Iraq invasion turned up in the house of an Islamic State leader

BAGHDAD — The United States handed over more than 400 ancient artifacts to Iraq on Wednesday, part of ongoing efforts to repatriate the country’s looted heritage. But this latest batch has a particularly intriguing back story — the antiquities were seized by U.S. Special Operations forces members as they raided the house of a leader of the Islamic State militant group.

The nighttime operation to capture the militant took place in eastern Syria in May, and the Delta Force troops did not come back with their prize. It was their first such ground mission in the country, and their main target, a man known as Abu Sayyaf who ran oil operations for the Islamic State in the area, was killed in an ensuing firefight.

But as the commandos scoured the compound for documents and laptops that could provide intelligence about the organization, they stumbled across artifacts thought to be dating back as far as 4,000 years.

Among them was a religious text written in Aramaic, the ancient Semitic language said to have been spoken by Jesus. An official at the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad said Wednesday that it was about 500 years old but has not yet been properly dated. (Museum officials also said that, as with many of the items found, they could not be sure whether the text was of Syrian or Iraqi origin.)

There were hundreds of coins — some of them gold from the Abbassid era, others silver pieces from the Umayyad period. There were stone cylindrical seals from the ancient city of Nimrud and fragments of pottery.

The presence of the artifacts in Abu Sayyaf’s house is perhaps not surprising. The Islamic State’s “Diwan al-Rikaz” — a ministry overseeing precious resources — has departments in charge of both oil and gas and antiquities. Abu Sayyaf may well have had a role in the sale of these resources…

…Among the items found in the house were three Babylonian stone seals, which officials said were stolen in 2003 from the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad during the chaos that followed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Their museum numbering is still visible…

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ISIS profits from 20% tax on smuggled loot

March 9, 2015

Why 20 percent? The Koran 8:42 says that “when ye have taken any booty, a fifth part belongeth to God and to the Apostle…” This one-fifth tax, or khums, on booty or the spoils of war has been a common revenue-raising measure employed by caliphs, sultans, and Muslim military commanders since the eighth century.

BBC’s “File on 4” aired a report on Feb. 17 examining the extent to which ISIS controls the market in smuggling antiquities out of eastern Syria, especially around the ISIS stronghold in Raqqa, for follow-on sales through middlemen in Turkey and elsewhere to wealthy European and Gulf buyers. The BBC’s Simon Cox spoke from Lebanon with “Ahmed,” one Syrian dealer working in Turkey who described ISIS’s 20 percent cut on the archaeological black market.  Listen to this three minute clip of their conversation (please allow several seconds after clicking the arrow for the audio to play):

Hat tip to Alan for sending this over.

Prior Money Jihad coverage of ISIS’s reliance on khums is here, here, here, and here.

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Outfoxing jihadi financiers: news reading tips

January 29, 2015
  • American banks have begun breaking off their old love affair with Arab banks… more>>
  • A Democrat congressman recently planned to speak at an event with a Taliban fundraiser… more>>
  • Too often, organized smuggling networks simply aren’t prosecuted… more>>
  • A Pakistani boatload of terrorists self-detonated off India’s waters. Most Indian media and officials agree that a terrorist plot was foiled in the process, except for the Indian Express which claimed the offenders were just petty smugglers. A blogger carefully dismantles the Indian Express’s version of events… more>>
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Secret details spilled on ISIS’s funding

November 14, 2014

How jihad group uses WhatsApp, oil hoses, and looted antiquities to stay solvent

ISIS using mobile apps to stay in touch with financiers
There was a time when terrorists preferred moving their money through the traditional Islamic debt transfer system of hawala, through the conventional wire services like Western Union and MoneyGram, or through a combination of both. But fears of detection led ISIS to send personal couriers and fundraisers to Europe, while staying in touch with them through text messaging and WhatsApp, as an ongoing trial against a Syrian-Lebanese man in Germany illustrates (h/t El Grillo)… more>>

Antiquity smuggling isn’t random looters, it’s an organized ISIS racket
ISIS has made over $35 million from selling historical artifacts, and now controls 4,500 archaeological sites (h/t Rushette). They justify their bulldozing and looting on the basis of khums, the traditional Islamic tax on discovered wealth (h/t Sal)… more>> and more>>

ISIS and al-Nusra smuggle oil right under the noses of Turkish gendarmes
Turkish border guards look the other way as vans filled with oil drums and tubes are laid in trenches to transfer black market oil from Syria and Iraq. A new report takes a look at the nuts and bolts of the illicit trade along with photos of how it’s done (h/t El Grillo)… more>>

Businessmen flee Mosul as ISIS breaks no-new-taxes promise
Manufacturers and small business owners in Mosul, Tikrit, and Fallujah abandon their factories to avoid making “royalty” payments to ISIS after they reneged on an earlier pledge not to tax them (h/t El Grillo)… more>>

ISIS’s coffers have been wildly overestimated, says Germany
Even using all of these revenue techniques, there’s a genuine possibility that ISIS may have bigger financial problems than previously reported. German intelligence reveals that ISIS is only to raise between 3 to 10 percent as much money from oil sales as previously reported, and that its production abilities are dwindling rapidly as oil production sites are bombed and oil technicians flee their posts (h/t El Grillo)… more>>

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News roundup: recommended reading

July 24, 2014
  • Congressman appearing on Al Jazeera declares “The owners of this TV network help fund Hamas,” and the interviewer doesn’t dispute him… more>>
  • World Net Daily interviews Money Jihad blogger A.D. Kendall on the funding of al-Shabaab and other jihadist groups in Africa… more>>
  • ISIS is looting antiquities, liquidating the history of mankind, and funding its own operations from the profits… more>>
  • The Washington Post declares, “U.S. should aid those who fight terror, not abet human rights abuses.” Are you listening, Saudi Arabia?  More>>
  • You find what you think is a great new international partner for your growing business. Before signing that contract with a foreign firm, hire a professional investigator with a physical presence in that country to conduct due diligencemore>>