Terror Funding

Germany's Toothless Fight Against IS Financing

Gun on an SUV
How to pull the plug on IS financing?
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Islamic State is considered the world’s richest terrorist organization and its capabilities could be significantly curtailed through effective international measures to reduce its funding.

  • Facts


    • IS derives much of its estimated $80 million in monthly income from the sale of oil.
    • U.S. forces have begun targeting tanker trucks whose drivers are also believed to be acting as money couriers.
    • Critics say a new E.U. money laundering directive is not effective enough.
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While German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière lacks talent for portraying political vigor, his fellow cabinet member, Wolfgang Schäuble has it in spades. After the Paris attacks, the finance minister demanded tougher measures to combat terrorist financing and, in doing so, essentially wrenched control over the so-called Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering from the interior minister. The task force, previously assigned to the Federal Criminal Police Office, BKA, is being moved to the customs administration, which reports directly to Mr. Schäuble.

This is how Mr. Schäuble demonstrated his toughness and determination in the fight against terror. But beyond verbal feats, this fight, even in Mr. Schäuble’s ministry, is not being conducted energetically or particularly efficiently. The minister is calling for yet another European Union money laundering directive, which would be the fifth directive of its kind. In truth, however, the fourth directive, approved in 2014, hasn’t even been implemented yet.

“The Federal Ministry of Finance plans to submit a draft bill before the 2016 summer recess,” Mr. Schäuble’s officials said in response to an inquiry from Wirtschaftswoche. Why so late? Apparently Justice Minister Heiko Maas, a member of the center-left Social Democratic Party, has concerns about data privacy.

This is symptomatic of Germany’s haphazard approach to fighting terrorism at a time when combating the funding of Islamic State is of paramount importance. The Islamist group has a sophisticated financial system and is now considered the world’s richest terrorist organization, ever since IS militants captured the oil-rich region around the Iraqi city of Mosul in 2014.

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