KEY POINTS

  • ISIS holds the Guinness World Record for the richest terrorist organization with a $2 billion fortune in 2014
  • Most of the group's wealth reportedly came from the illegal sale of oil and kidnapping and ransom, among others
  • ISIS received up to $45 million in ransom in 2013 alone

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, more commonly known as ISIS, was at one point the richest and most well-funded terrorism and insurgency group on the planet, even holding a Guinness World Record due to its massive net worth.

ISIS was first dubbed by Forbes as the wealthiest terrorist organization in the world in 2014, surpassing other groups such as Al-Qaeda, Al-Shabab and the Taliban. It was said to have an annual turnover of about $2 billion, according to the outlet's 2014 estimates.

The group entered the Guinness World Records that year as the richest insurgency group.

Some analysts estimated that the net worth of ISIS may have been closer to $3 billion around that time, according to a Forbes report.

The group’s main sources of funding are the illegal sale of oil — believed to bring in millions of dollars per day — as well as kidnapping and ransom, collection of protection taxes, bank robberies and looting, the outlet said.

Part of the group’s fortune in 2014 came from the funds it seized from the bank of Mosul when it took control of the Iraqi city that year. The amount was estimated to be more than $300 million.

The insurgency group controlled about 60% of Syria’s oil reserves during that year and was able to seize seven major oil and gas reserves in Iraq. Tens of thousands of barrels of oil were sold on the black market every day. Despite selling oil for 40% to 75% cheaper than the market price, it still made them about $3 million per day, according to Forbes.

ISIS was also known for kidnapping foreigners in order to demand ransom, receiving up to $45 million in exchange for releasing hostages in 2013 alone, the Associated Press reported.

ISIS took control of vast agricultural lands, factories, power stations, dams and other strategic facilities during its reign. These contributed significantly to the group’s power and economic force.

But ISIS later lost control of the areas after withdrawing troops, which resulted in them losing more than 90% of their income from 2014 to 2017. By the end of 2017, the group was only earning about $200 million, Forbes reported.

Due to the rapid decline of income, the insurgency group fell to fifth place in the outlet's list of richest terrorist organizations in the world in 2018. ISIS was overtaken by Al-Qaeda, Hamas, the Taliban and Hezbollah, the latter of which generated an annual income of $1.1 billion the previous year.

Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed a "caliphate" in parts of Syria and Iraq in 2014; five years later, he died in a raid led by US special forces Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed a "caliphate" in parts of Syria and Iraq in 2014; five years later, he died in a raid led by US special forces Photo: AL-FURQAN MEDIA / -