On 17th January, Chatham House published a thought-provoking and important briefing claiming that, despite its defeat on the battlefield, ISIS is using Iraq’s black market to stockpile millions of dollars to fuel its coming insurgency.  Once dubbed ‘the world’s richest terrorist organization’ by the UN, it has also lost an estimated 80% of the funds it acquired by conquering territory and mimicking the functions of a state, collecting taxes and tariffs from the citizens under its control; but the corrupt war economies of Iraq and Syria will allow ISIS to continue on and finance a dangerous insurgency. For example, it is claimed that ISIS has smuggled an estimated $400 million out of Iraq and Syria during its recent retreat.  As ISIS returns to its insurgent roots, it has invested at least $250 million in legitimate businesses. Both in Baghdad and in recently liberated areas, it is relying on middlemen who are inspired not by its ideology but by the prospect of economic gain.  It is claimed that many of the middlemen are tribal leaders or businessmen who have clean records and can hide their links to the terrorist organization. They are given a lump sum of cash to invest in a given business, and ISIS then takes a cut from the profits.  Front companies include car dealerships, electronics shops and pharmacies — but the business of choice is currency exchanges.


Author: raytodd2017

Chartered Legal Executive and former senior manager with Isle of Man Customs and Excise, where I was (amongst other things) Sanctions Officer (for UN/EU sanctions), Export Licensing Officer and Manager of the Legal-Library & Collectorate Support Section

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