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Terrorism and International Crime – Corruption as the Enabler

Policy Paper for the 54th Munich Security Conference 2018

ISIS, at its height, was able to control large parts of Iraq and Syria. Its rise and wealth was explained by its profitable criminal activity –  its bank robberies, extortion, kidnapping, oil smuggling and its taxing of a vast array of commodities and people that crossed the borders of the territory it controlled. ISIS was not distinctive. The UN Security Council recognized the association between criminal activity and terrorism in late 2014. Terrorists, like organized criminals, engage in corrupt activities with governments to survive, as they are dependent on smuggling that requires the collusion of officials. Repulsion at widespread systemic corruption of the government also serves as a recruitment tool for different terrorist organizations. Additionally, the services non-state actors provide citizens, made possible by their wealth, let them supplant the state. The visible entanglement of crime, corruption and terrorism is most apparent with ISIS, but the association among these activities is present on all continents and needs to be recognized and addressed as a key security issue.