Business experts weigh in on ISIS’s organ sales

Money Jihad, February 27, 2015:

Black market organ sales and the financing of ISIS was the subject of a segment on last Saturday’s edition of the business news show “Bulls & Bears” on Fox News.  Among the more interesting points made during the discussion came from hedge fund manager Gary B. Smith, who suggested that ISIS’s financial swamp can be drained by following the model for prosecuting organized crime rings to include developing informants and flipping them to rat out the big bosses.  That would have been easier if Pres. Obama had tried to keep a residual force in Iraq to include human intelligence forces, but it’s still a valid prescription for tackling ISIS sleeper cells in the West.  Roll tape:

The $20,000 behind the Paris attacks came “from abroad”

Hebdo-300x170Money Jihad, Jan. 14, 2015:

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 according to CBS News yesterday (h/t El Grillo), which supports Money Jihad analysis of the Kouachis’ funding earlier this week. The report also adds credibility to claims by AQAP and Cherif Kouachi himself that the Charlie Hebdo attacks were planned, ordered, and financed by AQAP itself. The physical transfer of funds to Kouachi suggests that bulk cash smuggling (or the smuggling of other financial instruments) back to Europe was the method used rather than a wire, hawala transaction, or trade-based money laundering operation.

Relatedly, the Associated Press reported weapons for the Paris terrorist attacks came from abroad:

Several people are being sought in relation to the “substantial” financing of the three gunmen behind the terror campaign, said Christophe Crepin, a French police union official. The gunmen’s weapons stockpile came from abroad, and the size of it plus the military sophistication of the attacks indicated an organized terror network, he added.

“This cell did not include just those three, we think with all seriousness that they had accomplices, because of the weaponry, the logistics and the costs of it,” Crepin said. “These are heavy weapons. When I talk about things like a rocket launcher – it’s not like buying a baguette on the corner, it’s for targeted acts.”

The Belgian daily La Dernière Heure corroborates that several of the weapons acquired by the Kouachi brothers and Amedy Coulibaly were bought in Brussels.

The $20,000 figure reported by CBS is also consistent with an estimate over the weekend from counterterror expert Jean-Paul Rouiller. Bloomberg Businessweek reported:

…The Kalashnikov rifles and other weapons used by the attackers, Chérif and Saïd Kouachi and Amedy Coulibaly, likely cost less than €10,000 ($11,800), according to Jean-Paul Rouiller, director of the Geneva Centre for Training and Analysis of Terrorism, a Swiss research group. Including the cost of Saïd Kouachi’s 2011 trip to Yemen, where he may have received training from al-Qaeda, the total price tag for the deadly attacks by the three men might have reached about $20,000…

Bloomberg went on to report that, “for what Rouiller describes as ‘such a low-cost operation,’ financing from abroad would be unlikely”—a theory that now seems to have been disproved by the evidence.

Regardless of where it is finally determined that the funds for the weapons originated, it should be kept in mind that the direct expenses of the Kouachi brothers and Amedy Coulibaly aren’t the only expenditures that matter. The weapons training camp in Yemen that both Kouachi brothers attended in 2011 wasn’t “self-financed” by individual AQAP recruits. The militants at the AQAP camp that trained the Kouachi brothers didn’t self-finance their own wages. The human smuggling network that helped sneak the Kouachi brothers across the border from Oman into Yemen isn’t self-financed. Anwar al-Awlaki, the terrorist imam with whom the Kouachi brothers met while in Yemen and possibly assigned them their marching orders, was not self-financed either. Not to mention that the Kouachi brothers’ basic cost of living in Paris probably wasn’t met by part-time work delivering pizzas and gutting fish at the market.

We will also discover over time that the websites, texts, and videos that the Kouachis and Coulibaly consumed, like most Islamic radical materials, are generally produced by entities backed by Wahhabi patrons. It is important to think of the bigger picture not just of the money it took to carry out the Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher operations, but the amount of money it takes to sustain a terrorist infrastructure in Yemen (and beyond) that these sleeper cells count on for arms, training and guidance.

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Also see:

 

Expert: ISIS recruits not motivated by money

Money Jihad, Jan. 5, 2015:

Russia Today recently interviewed terror finance expert Loretta Napoleoni about the business operations of the Islamic State of Iraq. During the conversation, Napoleoni made some comments that seemed to suggest that ISIS is primarily driven by business imperatives rather than ideology—that governing territory and running a bureaucracy create its own financial demands that consume more and more of the organization’s time. Interviewer Sophie Shevardnadze sought clarification, asking if isn’t the case that ISIS fighters are motivated by their genuine Islamist beliefs rather than profit motives. Napoleoni gave a good and wise answer (transcribed below).  Roll tape:

 

I think the people that are joining this organization today, they are not joining because they want to make money—we’re not talking about mercenaries here, at all—we’re actually talking about people that are lured into joining, who are seducted. We’re talking about true seduction… All of the sudden the message comes from the Islamic State and says, “Come and help us build the new state, come and help us implement the Muslim political utopia,” something that for generations and generations, for centuries the Muslims have tried to establish and they have always failed. So these people are not motivated by money, they are actually motivated by an ideology. But in order to get to this level the Islamic State had to build itself and they did it through finance.

Fracking lets us ditch Saudi oil to use our own

Money Jihad, Sep. 26, 2014:

As part of the run-up to Money Jihad’s five-year anniversary, we’re looking back at five important videos from over the past several years about the financing of terrorism.

Last week we looked at money that has been pumped into the Gulf monarchies in oil royalties that they have turned around to use for terror for decades to placate their own Wahhabi domestic religious/political partners.  But what are we going to do about it? Drill our way out. U.S. energy independence from Arab oil, largely driven by technological innovation through hydraulic fracturing, may be the biggest strategic game-changer in the global balance of power since World War II.

From a Fox News interview last year with the Wall Street Journal’s Steve Moore and national security analyst KT McFarland:

Oil money and Saudi Arabia’s stranglehold over global affairs

Money Jihad, Sep. 18, 2014:

The five year anniversary of this blog’s inception is coming up in October. Before then we’ll revisit five videos that have touched on extremely important concepts in terrorist financing.

Today we’ll look at two. Money Jihad has shown one of them before—an interview with Bernard Lewis on C-SPAN—but it’s important enough to return to, about how oil money and the love affair between the House of Saud and Wahhabi clerics precipitated the rise of global jihad:

 

The other picks up where Lewis left off.  Former CIA director James Woolsey offers additional examples and comparisons about what Saudi oil money and the related control by Wahabbi clerics has meant for Islamic developments throughout the world over the past several decades.

 

Watching these videos and considering the billions of petrodollars that have flowed to terrorism, it almost feels silly to sniff out smaller transactions of a thousand dollars here and hundred dollars there to individual “martyrs” and their operations.

Seven habits of highly effective kingpins

Risky BusinessMoney Jihad:

Criminal and terrorist groups are highly interconnected according to new analysis of data by West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center. The conventional wisdom was that criminals worry that working with terrorists may draw unwanted scrutiny from their governments, and they are only inclined to cooperate only in resource-poor environments where it is necessary to survive. But the CTC finds that transnational traffickers and criminals appear to be more than willing to partner with terrorists, and that they benefit from these relationships in a wide variety of environments.

The full report can be read here. It is very thorough (89 pages) and includes academic language and models. Here are a just a few of the salient points from the study about members of the global underworld that may be of interest to practitioners and analysts outside of academia:

  1. Interconnected: 98 percent of the individuals in the global illicit marketplace are within two degrees of separation of each other.
  2. International: One in three individuals in the network have international relationships.
  3. Distributed power: Unlike typical hub-and-spoke networks where 80 percent of the connections rely on 20 percent of the actors involved, the global illicit network is somewhat less dependent on a small number of powerful actors/kingpins. Twenty percent of participants are responsible for only 65 percent of underworld connections. This diffuse hub-and-spoke model makes the network tougher for law enforcement to disrupt.
  4. Willingness to work with terrorists: “Individuals involved in other illicit activities link to terrorists 35 percent of the time” (p. 43). Terrorists often serve as “boundary spanners,” that link and form introductions between disparate groups such as drug traffickers, arms dealers, and organized crime.
  5. Frequent bilateral links with the United Arab Emirates: The top two bilateral connections in the criminal underworld–the U.S. and Colombia and the U.S. and Mexico–are probably unsurprising to Americans. The third most prevalent bilateral connections are between India and the U.A.E., and the sixth most common are between Pakistan and the U.A.E.
  6. Organized crime, not just terrorism, benefits from state sponsorship. We know that state sponsorship of terrorism exists, but for some reason we erroneously assume that state sponsorship of crime does not. The evidence from North Korea, Russia, the Balkans, and Pakistan indicates that criminals can carry out national interests—a phenomenon deserving further study.
  7. Convergence is not driven by poverty. Terrorists and criminals are drawn together in a variety of environments, not just in countries where there are little money or resources. The evidence indicates that the opposite is often true—that criminal masterminds prefer climates where there is some level of predictability and economic development, such as Monzer al-Kassar operating in Spain and Dawood Ibrahim in Dubai. Focusing only on failed states could be a red herring.

Acknowledgment: Thanks to Twitter user @El_Grillo1 for sending in a link to the CTC study.

Donor nations appear clueless about Palestinian Authority stipends to terrorists

download (50)By Money Jihad, January 5, 2014:

In November, The Guardian’s Edwin Black wrote about the phenomenon of Palestinian Authority providing stipends to terrorists imprisoned in Israel. Money Jihad did not blog about his piece at the time, because this phenomenon is already familiar to our readers (see herehere, and here), and it didn’t seem to break any news or provide any new information.

But upon rereading his write-up, Black’s explanation is so clear and striking that this is definitely worth a second look.  He makes the observation that many officials in the U.K. and U.S. are still stunningly unaware of how much of their donor aid to the PA is skimmed off for the purposes of these stipends.

Hat tip to Dr. Mia Bloom, professor of security studies at UMass Lowell, for sending this over:

How British and American aid subsidises Palestinian terrorism

US and UK taxpayers fund the Palestinian Authority, which in turn funds prisoners in Israeli jails. It’s dangerously dysfunctional

On both sides of the pond, in London and Washington, policymakers are struggling to weather their budget crises. Therefore, it may astound American and British taxpayers that the precious dollars and pounds they deploy in Israel and the Occupied Territories fungibly funds terrorism.

The instrument of this funding is US and UK programs of aid paid to the Palestinian Authority. This astonishing financial dynamic is known to most Israeli leaders and western journalists in Israel. But it is still a shock to most in Congress and many in Britain’s Parliament, who are unaware that money going to the Palestinian Authority is regularly diverted to a program that systematically rewards convicted prisoners with generous salaries. These transactions in fact violate American and British laws that prohibit US funding from benefiting terrorists. More than that, they could be seen as incentivizing murder and terror against innocent civilians.

Here’s how the system works. When a Palestinian is convicted of an act of terror against the Israeli government or innocent civilians, such as a bombing or a murder, that convicted terrorist automatically receives a generous salary from the Palestinian Authority. The salary is specified by the Palestinian “law of the prisoner” and administered by the PA’s Ministry of Prisoner Affairs. A Palestinian watchdog group, the Prisoners Club, ensures the PA’s compliance with the law and pushes for payments as a prioritized expenditure. This means that even during frequent budget shortfalls and financial crisis, the PA PA pays the prisoners’ salaries first and foremost – before other fiscal obligations.

The law of the prisoner narrowly delineates just who is entitled to receive an official salary. In a recent interview, Ministry of Prisoners spokesman Amr Nasser read aloud that definition:

A detainee is each and every person who is in an Occupation prison based on his or her participation in the resistance to Occupation.

This means crimes against Israel or Israelis. Nasser was careful to explain:

It does not include common-law thieves and burglars. They are not included and are not part of the mandate of the ministry.

Under a sliding scale, carefully articulated in the law of the prisoner, the more serious the act of terrorism, the longer the prison sentence, and consequently, the higher the salary. Incarceration for up to three years fetches a salary of almost $400 per month. Prisoners behind bars for between three and five years will be paid about $560 monthly – a compensation level already higher than that for many ordinary West Bank jobs. Sentences of ten to 15 years fetch salaries of about $1,690 per month. Still worse acts of terrorism against civilians, punished with sentences between 15 and 20 years, earn almost $2,000 per month.

These are the best salaries in the Palestinian territories. The Arabic word ratib, meaning “salary”, is the official term for this compensation. The law ensures the greatest financial reward for the most egregious acts of terrorism.

In the Palestinian community, the salaries are no secret; they are publicly hailed in public speeches and special TV reports. The New York Times and the Times of Israel have both mentioned the mechanism in passing. Only British and American legislators seem to be uninformed about the payments…

 

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Watch Erick Stakelbeck interview of Edwin Black here:  The Watchman Show: Financing the Flames of Terror