Facing financial setbacks, the Islamic State (ISIS) is turning to more unorthodox methods for raising money: selling its own currency on the web. A new Meir Amit Intelligence and Information Terrorism Center report cites an ISIS publication from last month touting the terrorist group's minted coins.
"One of the news sites [on the Internet] published an advertisement [for] the purchase of every [type] of dinar currency minted by the Islamic State. The website notes that payment for the coins is via PayPal," an article in ISIS's Haqq publication said.
During its rise, the terrorist group's "Ministry of Finance" minted coins and regulated a new currency to be used in the territories under ISIS control. With the fall of its territorial caliphate, ISIS is trying to sell the coins as memorabilia and use the proceeds to finance future operations.
ISIS previously exploited PayPal and eBay to send money to its recruits. An August Wall Street Journal report outlines how the Islamic State sent money to an operative based in the United States, relying on phony eBay sales to hide financial transfers. Through PayPal, ISIS transferred roughly $8,700 to U.S. citizen and ISIS supporter Mohamed Elshinawy, who was pretending to sell computer printers. According to an FBI investigation, Elshinawy was meant to use the money for "operational purposes" – including potential terrorist attacks – in the United States.
This incident sheds light on an international ISIS financial network that relied on similar tactics to fund operations worldwide.
ISIS ran a well-functioning bureaucracy with clearly defined roles including rigorous financial management. It maintained a sophisticated payroll system for its fighters and generated money from state-like functions like taxation.
Terrorists often diversify their funding sources to support their nefarious activities, including various forms of criminal operations. For years, ISIS has relied on counterfeiting and other criminal activity to fund operations.
Now, facing even more financial pressure, ISIS is showing greater signs of desperation by resorting to creating and selling its own money.