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US Justice Department Hunts Ancient Jewels That Fund ISIS

US Justice Department Hunts Ancient Jewels That Fund ISIS

Friday, 8 December, 2017 - 12:15
The exterior of the US Department of Justice headquarters building in Washington, DC, US. on July 14, 2009. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

The US Justice Department, in cooperation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is seeking forfeiture of a total of seven antiquities believed to have been stolen by ISIS believed to be from the third century A.D.

The department announced on Wednesday that the United States is seeking a warrant to seize a gold ring that was identified in its previously filed civil complaint and that is believed to have been confiscated by authorities in Turkey.

The United States also amended its year-old forfeiture complaint to add three additional antiquities, with a total of seven items now included in the lawsuit. The amended complaint, filed in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, alleges that ISIS markets and sells antiquities to finance its terror operations.

The seven archaeological properties were depicted in photographs found during a raid of a residence of Abu Sayyaf, a senior leader within ISIS, in Deir Ezzor, Syria, in May 2015. The original items included a gold ring, two gold coins, and a carved stone. The amended complaint adds a gold brooch as well as a gold necklace with a matching brooch. These items date to ancient times and are believed to be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Sayyaf allegedly acted as ISIS' main antique dealer before he was killed in Dec. 2016 — even dubbing himself the “President of the Ministry of Natural Resources Antiquities Department,” according to officials.

His antiquity trafficking was said to have “directly financed ISIS.”

“These court actions are the latest step in an ongoing effort to disrupt the ability of ISIS and other terrorist groups to finance their operations,” said Jessie K. Liu, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. “They reflect our determination to locate precious stolen antiquities and preserve the cultural heritage of ancient sites that fell under ISIS’s control.”

“The FBI continues to work tirelessly with its partners to recover these precious antiquities stolen by ISIS, who sold them on the black market in order to finance their terrorist operations,” explained Andrew W. Vale, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.

“ISIS members extorted and threatened to arrest anyone outside of the terrorist organization who attempted to excavate, sell or transport antiquities from the territory under their control,” he added.

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