Islamic State finances: Group claims to have seized $500 billion

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Islamic State finances: Group claims to have seized $500 billion

When the northern Iraqi city of Mosul fell to fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in June, rumours circulated that Sunni Militants claimed they seized around a half billion dollars from the city’s banks. CCTV’s Tony Cheng reports.

While independent confirmation has proven impossible, Tony Cheng spoke to one man, who witnessed thebanks’ takeover. What he said suggests the recently declared Islamic State is being run with business acumen to match the religious fervor of its followers.

An impressive display of military might in the Syrian city of Raqqa. As armed vehicles of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant celebrate the foundation of the Islamic State tretching across the middle east. Anempire of that scale and ambition is expensive especially one at war. Belief may drive the fighters, but bullets and fuel cost cold hard cash.

The man who witnessed the invasion of Mosul, his home is close to the city’s central bank and he wants to remain unidentified.When the Islamic State fighters, or Da’ash, as they are known in Arabic, came they had a specific goal. Ahmed: “Da’ash came and took the most important parts of Mosul and that was the banks-all of the banks of Mosul”. Ahmed’s family still live close to the bank and he speaks to them every day. Although life in the Islamic State is bearable, he says supplies are running low and money is running out.

Islamic State finances: Group claims to have seized $500 billion

Islamic State finances: Group claims to have seized $500 billion

When the northern Iraqi city of Mosul fell to fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in June, rumours circulated that Sunni Militants claimed they seized around a half billion dollars from the city's banks. CCTV’s Tony Cheng reports.
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“For now, nobody can take cash from the bank, not even the employees of the government, not anyone. Even Da’ash they can’t take any money from the bank, because they are protecting it, because its har’ram (forbidden) to touch it,” says Ahmed.

After the Mosul was abandoned, the mayor claimed the Sunni fighters had seized more than four hundred million dollars in reserves. It is such a large amount credible, and the banks are only part of the equation. Oil fields and taxes generate revenue streams. Kidnappings and extortion may also be a major earner. Some estimate the Islamic State now has more than a billion dollars under its control.

Firas Abi Ali, Senior Manager of MENA Country Risk IHS says: “In a war, being able to fund yourself is a critical part of being able to survive. ISIL’s funding definitely helps it establish itself and gain more territory, it helps it buy loyalities, it helps it pay various government workers to ensure that they show up, it helps it bribe other groups so that they pledge allegiance to it.”

Running a nation is an expensive business and prosperity rarely finds its origin on the battlefield. The Iraqi government is pushing back hard trying to retake the assets it has lost.

For more analysis on the Sunni militants and the future of Iraq’s unity, CCTV spoke to Tony Shaffer. He is a Senior Fellow at the London Center for Policy Research.

Tony Shaffer on Iraq unity

Tony Shaffer on Iraq unity

For more analysis on the Sunni militants and the future of Iraq's unity, CCTV spoke to Tony Shaffer. He is a Senior Fellow at the London Center for Policy Research.
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