Purchasing Antiquities Looted by ISIS Helps to Fund Terrorism

While most of the news coverage on the behavior of ISIS towards archeological treasures focuses on the destruction of irreplaceable sites and statues, their widespread looting and sale of archeological objects has not received as much press coverage. According to an FBI newsletter on their website, industrial-level looting at Iraqi and Syrian archeological sites has been apparent from satellite images.

ISIS has been selling antiquities on a large scale to finance their terrorist activities, and the UN Security Council unanimously voted for a resolution that obligates the US and other member states to take measures to prevent terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq from benefitting from the trade in antiquities, oil, and hostages.

The FBI has received credible reports of people in the US who have been approached by individuals trying to sell antiquities that appear to be from Syria or Iraq and obtained by illegal looting and trafficking.

While the legitimate market for antiquities and art is a component of the US economy, the FBI is seeking help in preventing illegally obtained antiquities and art from reaching the market and preventing the transfer of funds that could benefit ISIS. The agency asked market leaders in art and antiquities to disseminate the following information to their clients, members, and constituents:

  • Purchasing an object looted and/or sold by ISIS could provide financial support to a terrorist organization and could be prosecuted
  • Be cautious when purchasing items from the Middle East. Antiquities from Iraq are subject to the Iraq Stabilization and Insurgency Sanctions Regulations
  • Exercise due diligence when purchasing any Iraqi or Syrian antiquities or other cultural property in the US or when purchasing them elsewhere using US funds

The FBI asks that any suspicious solicitations be reported to them:

  • 1-800-CALL-FBI
  • Local FBI field office
  • fbi.gov

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