US Treasury: Islamic State is making millions through ransoms, oil sales

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The US Treasury Department is saying that the Islamic State (ISIL) militant group, that has taken over much of Iraq and Syria, is making millions of dollars through the sale of black market oil and revenue from ransoming hostages.

“With the important exception of some state-sponsored terrorist organisations, ISIL is probably the best-funded terrorist organisation we have confronted,” said David Cohen, the Treasury Department’s under-secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

Cohen said that the Islamic State is making about $1 million a day, which, in addition to ransoms and oil sales, comes from funds given by wealthy donors and extorting the local population in areas under the group’s control.

“It has amassed wealth at an unprecedented pace, and its revenue sources have a different composition from those of many other terrorist organisations,” Cohen said.

“Unlike, for instance, core Al-Qaeda, ISIL derives a relatively small share of its funds from deep-pocket donors, and thus does not, today, depend principally on moving money across international borders. Instead, ISIL obtains the vast majority of its revenues through local criminal and terrorist activities.”

Cohen, who is in charge of disrupting financing to the Islamic State, said that the US will prosecute anyone involved in the sale or purchase of the group’s oil.

“At some point, that oil is acquired by someone who operates in the legitimate economy and who makes use of the financial system. He has a bank account. His business may be financed, his trucks may be insured, his facilities may be licensed. All that makes ISIL oil facilitators vulnerable,” Cohen said.