Posts Tagged ‘Syria’

h1

10 biggest terror finance news stories of 2015

January 4, 2016
  1. Funding of Paris attacks

The November 2015 attackers paid for $32,000 worth of pre-attack operations including hotel lodging and car rentals through anonymous prepaid cards purchased in Belgium. Payments were loaded in small increments; rules for prepaid cards allow for reloading up to $2,500 without identity verification. Although the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is responsible for the attacks and the training of several attackers, the precise source of the $32,000 is less clear. Money for travel appears to have become available after a stopover in Greece.

  1. Nuclear deal will release billions to Iran

The nuclear agreement that President Obama signed will release $100 billion to $150 billion of frozen assets to Iran, a state sponsor of terrorism. Hopefully the asset thaw will get gummed up in court while attorneys seek to collect the compensation that is owed to the victims of Iranian-sponsored terrorism first.

  1. Wahhabi funding monarch takes power

Saudi Arabia has crowned a new king, Salman bin Abdulaziz, who started his career in public service by bankrolling the exportation of radical Wahhabism throughout the Islamic world. We will be contending with well-funded terrorist groups for as long as men such as Salman rule Arabia.

  1. Coalition bombs ISIS oil fields

According to news reports, the U.S. is increasing pressure against ISIS’s financial assets by bombing oil fields in their territory. If true, the bombing means that the Obama administration has begun to recognize that it is worth destroying oil infrastructure to deprive ISIS of funding even if it means it will be harder to rebuild the infrastructure when and if ISIS retreats.

  1. Son of terror victim sues wire transfer company

The son of a slain Somali politician and singing star is suing the money transfer company Dahabshiil for its alleged involvement in issuing a bounty for the singer’s murder. Saado Ali Warsame had sung a song denouncing Dahabshiil as a financier of terror and a profiteer from inter-tribal conflict.

  1. Jihadists in Yemen fund Charlie Hebdo assassins

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) gave $20,000 to future Charlie Hebdo attacker Said Kouachi before he and his brother left Yemen in August 2011. The foreign funding helps explain how a group of underemployed ex-cons were able to buy AK-47s for their January 2015 attacks and pay for Said Kouachi’s international travels.

  1. PA and PLO owe damages for terror attacks

A jury found the Palestinian Authority and the PLO liable for terrorist attacks with American victims in the early 2000s, with damages set at $656 million in Sokolow v. PLO. A federal judge set $10 million bond while the PA and PLO appeal.

  1. Taliban takes control of more turf

The Washington Post reports that the Taliban has taken control or maintains a significant presence in 30 percent of Afghanistan—the most territory it has occupied since 2001. The problem with this from a financial standpoint is that the Taliban lives off the land. One of their primary sources of income is taxation on commercial activity in the areas they control. More turf means more money.

  1. Arab Bank settles with terror victims

Arab Bank PLC provided client services to Hamas affiliates which funded terrorist attacks against Israel. After years of lawsuits, the settlement was reached between the bank and American victims of these terrorist attacks, possibly for $1 billion. Together with the Sokolow, these cases show that legal tactics can be used effectively to hit terrorists where it hurts: their wallets.

  1. Debt-financing of San Bernadino attack

Syed Rizwan Farook took out a $28,000 debt consolidation loan weeks before waging an assault against his victims. This method of financing attacks is particularly popular among jihadists living in Western countries where easy credit is, well, easy.

h1

Assad funds his own enemies

December 31, 2015

The regime of Syrian despot Bashar al-Assad is buying millions of dollars in oil from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Maybe years of sanctions against Syria have backfired in that Assad doesn’t have too many other willing sellers. This business relationship between Assad and ISIS helps explain the protracted nature of the conflict.

That, and we’ve been too slow to recognize that Assad may be the lesser priority evil in the region. The thinking in fashionable circles in D.C. for the last couple years was to defeat Assad then defeat ISIS. It may be a better idea to let him defeat ISIS and then reassess.

Here’s a telling excerpt from an interview by NPR’s Renee Montagne with Treasury official Adam Szubin (h/t El Grillo):

…MONTAGNE: I think it will amaze listeners to hear that a great deal of the oil paying for the Islamic State’s war is going to the regime of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, the very person he’s fighting. You’ve been quoted as saying the two are trying to slaughter each other, and they are still engaged in millions of dollars of trade. What is going on there? Are they functionally partners?

SZUBIN: I wouldn’t call them partners. Clearly they’re adversaries on the battlefield, but necessity makes some strange bedfellows. And in this instance, the Syrian regime is very hungry for gas and also for oil. And they don’t mind seemingly purchasing some of it from ISIL…

h1

Britain cites Turkish transit of Syrian terror cash

October 19, 2015

British authorities have drawn attention to Turkey’s role as a transit point for the illegal flow of money from the U.K. into the hands of terrorists in Syria.  From the new report, “UK national risk assessment of money laundering and terrorist financing,” published by HM Treasury and the Home Office:

…Most recently, police investigations have shown that MSBs [money services businesses] are being used to send funds to Turkey and Egypt, eventually reaching foreign fighters in Syria. Funds are typically broken down in to smaller amounts to avoid the need to provide identification and to avoid detection. Intelligence also indicates that employees have been known to facilitate funds to terrorists through their position within MSBs…

… Amal El-Wahabi was convicted in 2014 for coercing a friend to carry 20,000 Euros (£15,800) to Turkey in an attempt to fund her husband’s jihad for ISIL in Syria…

…Turkey is a key hub for the flow of funds to Syria for terrorist use. Intelligence suggests that cash has been withdrawn from ATMs on the border of Turkey and Syria by foreign fighters engaged in fighting in Syria. Turkey does not control the full length of its land border and there are plentiful routes for smuggling goods and people into Syria. The movement of oil from ISIL controlled areas through a network of middle-men, and the risk of it moving through Turkey, is also of concern…

h1

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:

h1

ISIS slashes their fighters’ paychecks

October 7, 2015

The Islamic State of Iraq has cut the wages for jihadists from about $400 to $100.  Is it a sign that ISIS is struggling financially, or is it an indication that they’re able to cut wages and still attract volunteers?  It’s unclear from this report from the Mirror whether ISIS is able to replenish the fighters that have left for Syria in search of better wages.  Hat tip to Shariah Finance Watch:

Hundreds of Isis killers give up terrorism after chiefs cut pay by £200 a month

Hundreds of Islamic State terror fighters are deserting the cause – after their wages were slashed. 

The killers were on £260 a month until cash shortages forced the lower rate of £65…

h1

Indonesia says terror financing “kingpin” is native Australian

September 15, 2015

Indonesia’s financial intelligence unit has traced the source of half a million dollars for jihad in Syria:  an Australian man married to a Javanese woman.  An Indonesian official says, “That man collected money from many people in Australia” (emphasis mine).  Hopefully this intelligence is being shared with Australian intelligence and law enforcement.  From the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (h/t @skinroller) on Sept. 13:

Australian man linked to cash supporting terrorism, sending fighters to Syria: Indonesia

Indonesian authorities have revealed they have linked an Australian man to $500,000 they suspect has been used to support terrorism and send Indonesian nationals to Syria to fight with Islamic State.

The Australian man is married to an Indonesian woman who the ABC understands is from Java but is now living in Australia.

In an exclusive interview with the ABC, Agus Santoso, the deputy chair of Indonesia’s financial intelligence body Intrac, said they had tracked 5 billion rupiah from bank accounts in Australia that has been transferred to at least 10 accounts in Indonesia.

“That man collected money from many people in Australia. Then he sent it to his wife’s account in Indonesia,” Mr Santoso said.

“So this Indonesian woman was used to open some bank accounts which we suspect have links with terrorism suspects.

“What is surprising is that the kingpin is not an immigrant. In my opinion he is native Australian, not an immigrant. I mean, he is white.”

Intrac, also known as the Financial Transactions and Analysis Centre (PPATK), has tracked the money since 2012 and said some of the funds were still active in Indonesian accounts.

Mr Santoso said he strongly suspected the money was being used to send Indonesians to Syria, while also funding IS recruitment to strengthen the terrorist network in Indonesia.

He said $500,000 goes a long way in Indonesia.

“It only costs $250 to make a bomb,” he said…

h1

ISIS’s economy smaller and shabbier than Iraq’s

September 8, 2015

Given the territory it controls, the economic prospects of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are crummy, researchers have argued.  Oil notwithstanding, the economies of northern Syria and western and northern Iraq weren’t so great to begin with before the rise of ISIS (also known as Daesh).  The economy in areas of ISIS control has probably worsened given the number of people who have fled or who otherwise lost their jobs when ISIS took control.  On top of that, ISIS spends its money on aggression, not on public service delivery.

This is a persuasive argument.  It has a bit more substance to it than the usual happy talk from than speeches from U.S. Treasury Department officials.  Kudos to Jamie Hansen-Lewis and Jacob N. Shapiro for their research, which was published in the journal Perspectives on Terrorism (hat tip to El Grillo).  A salient excerpt from their article follows:

…Daesh has limited economic activity to draw on. Daesh area’s total economic activity according to G-Econ was at most one-fifth of the rest of Iraq’s and one-third of the rest of Syria’s. Using the more refined DMSP-OLS data the group’s poverty is equally stark, with 2012 illumination in the regions it now controls amounting to no more than one-third of the rest of Syria and one-eighth of the rest of Iraq.

And these methods almost surely overestimate Daesh’s current revenue base. First, we included areas of Daesh support from which their economy might draw in part, but it is not clear how much authority the group has to extract in these areas. Second, we use pre-war data, but the massive population movements that accompanied the Daesh takeover means these areas surely have less economic activity than they did in 1990 (for the GEcon data) or 2012 (for the DMSP-OLS data).[39]

Assuming Daesh is able to transform that economic activity into military spending at rates similar to comparably sized states we should not expect it to be able to sustain large defense expenditures. Worldwide defense expenditures peak at 10.2% of GDP in South Sudan, with many conflict-affected countries spending only 3% of GDP on defense.[40] Countries close to Daesh’s Gross Cell Product had a 2014 GDP of approximately $30B or $4,700 per capita. Combined with the range of observed expenditures this suggests the group could support defense expenditures in the range of $900M to $3B per year. While Daesh’s potential spending totals are large compared to its economic neighbors, they pale in comparison to Iraq’s 2014 spending of $9.5B, Turkey’s $20B, UAE’s $22.6B, or Saudi Arabia’s $80B.[41] While spending clearly translates only indirectly into military power, the gap between what is monetarily feasible for Daesh over the long-run and what its neighbors spend is striking.

Moreover, if we turn to the population under Daesh’s control it is fairly sparse…

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 6,335 other followers