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>>

 

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Antiquities smuggling funds terrorism

July 6, 2014

Haqqani network leader describes $3,000 cut from smuggler

Not only does the theft of artifacts from Middle Eastern tombs, museums, and archeological sites rob the world of its history, but it funds jihadists across the globe including militants in Afghanistan and sleeper cell operatives in the West.

This is an excerpt from a National Geographic article (h/t El Grillo) last month:

…In 1999, Mohamed Atta, the al Qaeda member who hijacked and flew an American Airlines plane into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York, tried to sell Afghan antiquities to a German university professor. Atta, according to information released by the German intelligence agency, claimed that he was selling artifacts in order to purchase an airplane.

More recently, an American expert on Afghan trafficking networks has uncovered a direct link between Afghan insurgents and the antiquities trade. In a report published by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, Gretchen Peters, a senior fellow on transnational crime at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, describes how a terrorist organization known as the Haqqani Network—which is allied with al Qaeda—collects protection money from traffickers moving looted artifacts into Pakistan.

In an interview conducted by Peters’s research assistant, a Haqqani commander described receiving a $3,000 payment from a trader, and noted that many “businessmen who smuggle precious stone, sculptures, and other historic artifacts … pay dues to the Taliban to avoid trouble on the road.” These funds can then be used to purchase weapons.

Violent factions in Iraq also appear to be cashing in on the illicit antiquities trade. In 2007, Colonel Matthew Bogdanos of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves, head of the investigation into the 2003 looting of the Iraq Museum in Baghdad, reported that insurgents turned to artifact smuggling to generate funds after the world banking community froze assets belonging to their supporters…

Shariah Finance Watch has some related information funding terrorism through smuggling in Iraq and Syria here.

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Terror funding news: recommended reading

March 6, 2014

Thanks to Gisele, Sal, El Grillo and all those who sent in tips.

  • Turkey has become a principal financial hub for terrorists under the leadership of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan,” writes Adam Kredo… more>>
  • Cultural property like art and antiquities are susceptible to exploitation in money laundering and terror finance schemes, but federal law doesn’t quite make the connection. Rick St. Hilaire explains… more>>
  • British sanctions target Pakistani jihad financiers and millionaire terrorist Dawood Ibrahimmore>>
  • Ten thousand dollars in farm subsidies have gone to a terror funding co-conspirator that grows no crops… more>>
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Hamas’s multi-million dollar fish story

March 3, 2014

The seizure of a statue by Hamas worth $20 to $40 million is raising concerns within the art world that looted antiquities could become a growing revenue source for terrorist organizations.  The bronze statue in question was allegedly discovered underwater (which expert archaeologists doubt) by a Gaza Strip fisherman and subsequently taken possession of by Hamas.

The dubious sea-diving tale prompts the question raised by the archaeological blog Looting Matters:  “Is the reported find-spot a blind to distract the authorities from a ‘productive’ site?”  In other words, where in the Middle East is the real site of discovery that is being plundered and resold to organizations like Hamas?

Incidentally, had this been a “Gazan” or “Palestinian” artifact discovered off the Gulf coast of Mississippi, the Palestinian Authority and leftist academics would be calling for the “repatriation” of the artifact to the Palestinian territories.  Yet notice that although this is a Greek artifact, there isn’t even a hint of a possibility of returning the statue to Greece…

From the International Business Times:

Rare Bronze Apollo Statue Found In The Gaza Strip, ‘Priceless’ Artifact Could Become ‘Funding Stream’ For Hamas

By Zoe Mintz

on February 10 2014

A statue lost for centuries was found in the Gaza Strip, seized by police and has since disappeared from public view.

The statue of the Greek god Apollo is at least 2,000 years old – made sometime between the 5th and 1st centuries BC. Joudat Ghrab, 26, a local fisherman, said he saw the half-ton statue on the seafloor of the Mediterranean in August and brought it home. The statue was posted on eBay briefly for $500,000 – well below its estimated value of $20 million to $40 million — before it was taken by the Islamist group Hamas, Reuters reports.

“It’s unique. In some ways I would say it is priceless. It’s like people asking what is the [value] of the painting La Gioconda [the Mona Lisa] in the Louvre museum,” Jean-Michel de Tarragon, a historian with the French Biblical and Archaeological School of Jerusalem, said. “It’s very, very rare to find a statue which is not in marble or in stone, but in metal.”

While archeologists have yet to examine the rare statue firsthand, based on the images that show the statue was well-preserved, experts say it was most likely recovered on land, not in the sea.

“This wasn’t found on the seashore or in the sea … it is very clean. No, it was [found] inland and dry,” de Tarragon said about the six-foot-tall statue, adding that the metal would have been disfigured or barnacles present if it had been found in water…

But Ghrab defends his story, adding that he thought the statue was a badly burned body before he dove down and discovered it was actually a “treasure”…

Family members belonging to Hamas soon took possession of the statue. Officials from Gaza’s tourism ministry told Reuters the statue will not be displayed publicly until a criminal investigation is completed on who tried to sell the item online…

The Apollo statue is stuck in a bit of a quandary. The Gaza Strip, a coastal Palestinian territory, is controlled by the militant Islamist group Hamas – making the purchase of the Apollo statue limited since it would be considered violating international sanctions against financing terrorism, Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports. If the statue was smuggled, it would be a challenge. The Gaza Strip not only shares heavily armed borders with Israel and Egypt but its coastline is also under heavy guard by the Israeli Navy. If the statue remains in the Gaza Strip, it would not become a tourist attractio [sic], because Hamas’ fundamentalist principles condemn nudity.

“This case is fiendishly difficult,” Sam Hardy, a British archaeologist who runs the website Conflict Antiquities, said. “National and international laws make it difficult to assist the administration in the West Bank, let alone that in the Gaza Strip. Indeed, any sale or leasing of the statue might normalize looting of antiquities as a funding stream for Hamas.”