The infamy we attribute to terrorist groups defined as being volatile, barbaric, and immeasurably reckless certainly rings true. However, it isn’t as popularly considered that in addition to these adjectives, terrorism, like any other form of organized crime, is also highly strategic, deliberate, and calculative. Much of the strength of terrorist organizations lies in the interdependency they create between themselves and the region in which they operate. Economic interdependency in particular is what makes these forces of violence and hate so difficult to combat; they become embedded in a region and the spoils of their crimes – literally the profits gained from acts of terrorism – are gained through the tactical victimization of large populations and local institutions.
There is great power in dirty money. Much of what’s secured the reign of terror these extremist and murderous contingents have executed for years is the huge profits their crimes rake in. Extortion, assassination, kidnapping, human trafficking, counterfeiting, and drug trade (to name a few of their criminal activities) amount to a considerable amount of cash. This in many ways marks terrorism as being in fact a business, and a successful one at that.
Several of the most infamous names in terrorism that we’ve come to learn about in recent years have maintained their high-stakes game of power through being strongly financially supported. Multimillion dollar donations to terrorist groups by other terrorist organizations, sympathizing political parties, and even governments themselves are not unheard of and if it’s not the profit gained from theft and murder that’s to be had, it’s the financial support procured from affiliates that maintain terrorism as a moneymaking enterprise.
‘Money makes the world go round’ by making its rounds around the world. When we consider how ill gotten cash circulates and becomes recycled into the community from which it’s profited (and inevitably the rest of the world amidst growing globalization), it’s well understood that the cost of crime is a higher tax than we can continue to afford.
With that said, it becomes a point of interest to learn which terrorist groups profit the most from their crimes against humanity. Of course, it’s difficult to trace sums of money that aren’t meant to be traced, and for this reason, most of the dollar sums we hear of are estimates when it comes to documenting the richest terrorist groups. Nonetheless, we’ve ranked some of the wealthiest terrorist organizations out there, according to educated estimates reported in the media, bringing to light the dark reality of the profits they’ve reaped at the expense of other people’s lives.
7. Boko Haram: Over $70 million
The Boko Haram are a Nigerian terrorist group who fight to overthrow the Nigerian government in order to implement an Islamist regime. They have bombed UN headquarters and most recently abducted over 200 Nigerian school girls in defense of their namesake “Western Education is Sin”. Since they’ve remained off the radar since their recent attacks, it’s unclear just how much money they make from their numerous kidnappings and the subsequent ransoms they procure. It has been determined, however, that between 2006-2011, they collected over $70 million.