• House of Commons - The UK’s role in the economic war against ISIL - Foreign Affairs Committee

      Donations to ISIL

      39.The Ministry of Defence told us that:

      It is accepted amongst FATF [Financial Action Task Force] members that the overall value of external donations to Daesh is minimal in relation to the revenue it generates from other sources, such as oil and taxation. But there is historical evidence of instances of financial donations to Daesh from within Gulf States.78 Furthermore, it is understood that family donations are being made to Daesh, through the unregulated Alternative Value Transfer Systems.79

      40.The Government emphasised to us that it had no evidence of any state in the Middle East providing money to ISIL as a matter of policy. A written submission from the Ministry of Defence outlined the important role that countries such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar are playing in the international Coalition against ISIL,80 and the Embassy of Qatar in London wrote separately81 to the inquiry about that state’s efforts to militarily and financially isolate this terrorist group. The Gulf States are vital allies in the war against ISIL, but the UK should be able to ask hard questions of close friends as part of our collective efforts to counter this common threat.

      41. Witnesses from the FCO addressed allegations that some governments in the region may have failed to prevent donations reaching ISIL from their citizens. Dan Chugg said that:

      There were allegations that Gulf countries were turning a blind eye, at the very least, to what was happening82…allegations that Saudi, Qatar and Turkey were involved in funding Daesh in some ways83…I am not aware of hard evidence that those countries were funding Daesh, but there was a lot of speculation that those countries were not playing a terribly helpful role.84

      42.Tobias Ellwood described a time, soon after ISIL first caught international attention with its rapid military expansion, when the group may have been perceived as a defender of Sunni Muslims in the wars in Iraq and Syria.85 Dan Chugg put this period “around two years ago”,86 while Tobias Ellwood referred to “before 2014”.87 During this period, ISIL may have been able to attract donations from sympathetic Sunnis, with the wealthiest states in the region—the Sunni monarchies of the Gulf—being the subject of particular concern. Mr Chugg said that “it was certainly a problem in the early days of the Daesh organisation that there was funding coming in from Gulf countries and other places.”88

      43.States in the region are establishing the legal and institutional infrastructure required to counter ISIL’s ability to raise finances. These steps have been described to us by the Ministry of Defence,89 and we welcome the action taken. Progress has also been made in establishing a global framework for internationally-coordinated action. UN Security Council Resolution 2253, which was passed on 17 December 2015, is an important international standard for countering terrorism financing. It establishes provisions that member states are expected to enact so as to counter funding, and other material support, for ISIL. Resolution 2253 includes such measures as preventing donations to ISIL, freezing its assets, and inhibiting trade related to the group.90

      44.But these efforts—of both individual states and of the international community—will not be effective if the measures against ISIL are enforced more effectively in some states than others. Some of the local measures to counter ISIL’s fundraising have been slow to be implemented by regional states. For example, the MoD told us that it was only in March 2015 that the Interior Ministry of Saudi Arabia passed laws making it illegal for Saudi residents to provide support to ISIL.91 In contrast, the UK designated ISIL as a distinct terrorist organisation in June 2014.92 There is also the issue that some of those donating to ISIL may have been close to the ruling families of the region. Tobias Ellwood told us that:

      It is very opaque, it has to be said. When somebody who is close to the top of a royal family is a very rich individual donor and chooses to do so, that is very likely to happen.93

      45.Dan Chugg said that:

      It is difficult with some of these countries to know exactly what is Government funding and what is not when you are dealing with royal families, wealthy princes and those kind of things94…Our strategy was not to try to ascertain whose problem and whose fault it was, but to stop the funding going to Daesh. That was what was important. And that is what our efforts have been focused on.95

      46.ISIL has received funding in the form of donations in the past. The FCO should work with local partners in the region to ensure that they have the capacity and resolve to rigorously enforce local laws to prevent the funding of ISIL, so that the group cannot benefit from donations in the future.