According to US intelligence, the Islamic State group (ISIS) earns as much as $3 million on a daily basis, ranking it as one of the richest insurgent groups ever.
According to an American official who spoke to NBC, ISIS needs all the money it can get, as operating a caliphate was no small business as money was needed to pay, arm and feed its men as well as paying pensions to the families of slain members, not forgetting the running costs of running its ever increasing territory.
1. SMUGGLING AND TAXES
A report by Guardian UK shows that one of the major sources of ISIS’ wealth was smuggling. On one of the groups raid to al-Nabuk, near the Qalamoun mountains west of Damascus, the group hijacked artifacts which dated to almost eight thousand years ago and traded the booty for a staggering $36 million. An official disclosed: “Before this, the western officials had been asking us where they had gotten some of their money from, $50,000 here, or $20,000 there. It was peanuts. Now they know and we know. They had done this all themselves. There was no state actor at all behind them, which we had long known. They don’t need one.”
The New York Times published an opinion piece written by Amr al-Azm, Salam al-Kuntar and Brian Daniels where it was disclosed that the ISIS group does not dedicate as much manpower to the archaeological looting as they do to their military as they allow locals loot and pay tax on the looted artifact.
2. KIPNAP AND HUMAN TRAFFICKING
As is characteristic of all organized terror groups, ISIS engages in high level trading in women and children as well as collecting huge ransoms for hostages.
A report by AP highlights that the group has made enormous fortune from trading women and children as slaves and sex slaves. The women and children are usually spouses and children of the men killed in their many raids.
Another way the ISIS rakes in millions of dollars in a single fell swoop is ransom. The group charges tens of millions of dollars for the release of a single kidnapped person. NBC reports that the group charges a minimum of “well over $25 million” for a single foreign hostage. Although the US and Britain claim not to support bargaining with the terror group, many European countries are known for paying the huge amounts to secure the release of their nationals.
Stemming majorly from the hope of overthrowing the Bashar al-Assad led government in Syria, several wealthy sympathizers of the opposition rebel have been bankrolling the rebels to the tune of several millions of dollars.
One BBC report shows that donors majorly from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have been financing several rebel groups like Liwa al-Tawhid, Ahrar al-Sham, Jaish al-Islam. The said groups have in turn joined forces with al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda branch in Syria and also the ISIS, handing over the donations they get from their sponsors to the groups, making these donors indirect sponsors of ISIS’ bloody trail of terror, although this accounts for just a tiny percentage when compared to money gotten from conquered territory.
Conquered lands come with conquered treasure. The ISIS group earns mega bucks off territory in its possession. Looting of banks and military artillery has been highlighted by AP as one of the most used means of income for the caliphate.
And with their lightning advance, their looting according to the report could be compared to that of the mafia, only this time in millions of dollars.
This is unarguably ISIS’ biggest source of income. Trading in the oil bounty from within its conquered territory, the group rakes in between $1.2 million and $3 million daily from trading in crude oil.
According to New York Times the US approached Turkey and other Gulf countries in order to see if the countries could desist from doing oil trade with ISIS, something that seems unlikely going by the fact that the said crude oil is traded at very subsidised rates, with AP revealing that a barrel of oil normally sold for $100 could go for between $25 and $60 per barrel.
The group also controls as many as eleven oil fields on both the Iraq and Syrian divide after capturing territory as large as the United Kingdom.