Italian Mafia Helps Arm ISIS With Looted Antiquities

Greek and Roman antiquities are traded for Kalashnikovs.

Iraqi pro-government forces hold an Islamic State (IS) group flag in Fallujah as they try to clear the city of IS fighters on June 19, 2016. Photo Haidar Mohammmed Ali/AFP/Getty Images.
Iraqi pro-government forces hold an Islamic State (IS) group flag in Fallujah as they try to clear the city of IS fighters on June 19, 2016. Photo Haidar Mohammmed Ali/AFP/Getty Images.

Italian journalist Domenico Quirico, working undercover as an art buyer, has exposed an arms-for-art trading ring involving the terrorist group ISIS, as well as the Italian Camorra and ‘ndrangheta crime gangs.

Reporting in La Stampa, Quirico writes that Chinese-flagged cargo ships bring antiquities looted from tombs in Libya by ISIS to the Italian port city of Gioia Tauro after originating in the Libyan coastal city of Sirte.

It has long been known that the illicit trade in art has fueled terrorist activities, even to the point that the Daily Show’s Trevor Noah has mocked these unscrupulous collectors.

The tombs have yielded treasures such as ancient Greek and Roman statuary, reports Quirico, who was assisting Italy’s patrimony police. Gioia Tauro has hosted a thriving drug trade for years, and the antiquities have taken their place alongside narcotics, even going on display in an abandoned salami factory, according to the Daily Beast.

In return for the art, ISIS gets weapons such as Kalashnikov rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, which are put to use in jihadist activities in Libya or even collected by terrorists for use in Europe. The arms come from the mafia’s long-running arms trade with Russian sources, as well as suppliers in other countries in that region. The patrimony police say that the art then goes to collectors in places like Russia, China, and Japan.

Related: Triumphal Arch of Palmyra, Razed by Isis, Rises Again in City Hall Park

Italy’s interior minister, Angelino Alfano, has confirmed La Stampa’s reporting.


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