An article about the arrest and confession of Sami Jasem Al-Jubouri, who was allegedly the former finance minister of the Islamic State (ISIS) and a deputy to Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, was featured on the front page of Al-Qadaa, the monthly magazine of the High Judicial Council of Iraq, which was published online on November 14, 2021. According to the article, the intelligence operation to apprehend Al-Jubouri took six months, during which Al-Jubouri aka Hajji Hamed aka Abu Asia, was lured “through several European cities” until he was captured by Iraqi intelligence beyond the borders of Iraq.
According to the testimony of Al-Jubouri, who was born in 1974 in the village of Al-Shirqat in Iraq’s Salah Al-Din Governorate, he was involved in criminal and terrorist organizations from the start of the Iraqi insurgency in 2004, when he joined the Al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad organization, founded by Abu Mus’ab Al-Zarqawi, which would later develop into ISIS. He stated that he later became the “financial administrator” of the organization.
Al-Jubouri revealed that his career in ISIS got off to a rough start when, in 2013, Al-Baghdadi ordered his assassination on suspicion that he was a collaborator with Jabhat Al-Nusrah under the command of Abu Muhammad Al-Joulani, who had defected from ISIS. Thanks to the intercession of some ISIS leaders, he was cleared of the charges and Al-Baghdadi pardoned him and assigned him to the financial department of “money collectors” in the ISIS Nineveh Province, in northern Iraq.
According to Al-Jubouri, “money collectors” would demand funds from wealthy people, owners of oil refineries, and other businesses, tradesmen, and doctors, on the pretext of helping the organizations’ fighters. Those who refused to pay were either killed or kidnapped, or members of their family were killed or kidnapped, or their houses were blown up. The sums extorted in the Nineveh Province reached $500,000 a month. Half of that amount would be sent to Al-Baghdadi, while the other half was put at the disposal of the governor of Nineveh.
Following the territorial expansion of ISIS in Iraq and the declaration of the Caliphate by Al-Baghdadi in Mosul in 2014, Al-Jubouri says that ISIS leaders issued a directive to set up an administrative structure for the newly-established Caliphate. Diwans (ministries) were created for justice, war, education, health, da’wah (preaching, i.e. propaganda), hisbah (religious police), finance, (natural) resources, zakat (obligatory annual payments), and the management of the spoils of war. Supervisors were appointed to head each diwan, and Al-Jubouri was chosen to head the (natural) resources diwan, which dealt mostly with the operation of oil wells and oil sales in Iraq and Syria to fund ISIS activities.
Al-Jubouri related that the resources diwan comprised 2,500 people; that the oil was transported using tanks and machinery seized along with the oil fields; that some of it was sold in Iraq to small refineries and plants; some was smuggled out of Iraq into neighboring countries, although Al-Jubouri did not specify which ones; and some was sold on the black market through an ISIS-controlled port at $180 per ton. During Al-Jubouri’s two years as the head of this diwan, he said, yearly exports amounted to more than $1.25 billion.
For this period, Al-Jubouri said that he was in constant contact with Al-Baghdadi and met with him in person three times until 2016 – twice in Nineveh and once in Syria – to discuss the work of the diwan, and the need to develop it to meet ISIS demands for weapons, explosives, and car bombs.
The killing of Abu ‘Ali Al-Anbari, head of the finance diwan (Bayt Al-Mal), in a 2016 air strike by the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, left a vacuum in the organization, and Al-Jubouri described receiving an urgent summons to Raqqa from Al-Baghdadi, where he was appointed the new emir of the finance diwan. He claims that following his appointment he was very close to, and in constant contact with, the top leadership, because he was responsible for the allocation of the budget to the ISIS provinces and received his instructions directly from the ISIS leader.
The finance diwan comprised a monetary, an accounting, and an oversight division. Its emir was in charge of collecting revenues and allocating the budget to the different provinces, as well as to the war diwan, which acquired the weapons needed to strike security forces in Iraq and Syria. An important expense item in the budget was “rewards.” Personnel at the war diwan could earn a reward of up to $30,000 for every car bomb detonated against security forces.
Al-Jubouri further noted that when he was appointed to his position the monetary reserves of the organization were $250 million and 3,000 kg of gold which were stored in the houses of various diwan “employees” and in tunnels. Most of the revenue came from oil exports, while the rest came from war booty from beyond the borders of the Islamic State, extortion, and ransom money from kidnappings.
Al-Jubouri told his captors that he ordered that an ISIS currency be issued, called “Islamic dinars.” When the Iraqi forces began to conquer ISIS territories in Iraq in 2017, he says, he transferred all the organization’s money from Iraq to Syria, or deposited it in private accounts outside ISIS territories. He stated that he was also involved in planning battles against the advancing Iraqi forces. However, when the air and artillery bombardments intensified, Al-Baghdadi ordered the withdrawal of all ISIS forces from Iraq to Syria.
In Syria, Al-Baghdadi and ‘Abd Al-Naser Qardash aka Hajj ‘Abdallah, decided to appoint Al-Jubouri as deputy emir of ISIS. Following the appointment, an internal statement was issued announcing that he had been fired, so that he would not be of interest to ISIS enemies, since in fact, he possessed sensitive information about the organization’s members, the way it functioned, and its financial structure.
When Syrian forces advanced into ISIS territory in 2018, many ISIS fighters fled, while others surrendered to the Syrian Democratic Forces. Al-Jubouri recounted that he first sent his four wives and his extended family to a neighboring country, and shortly afterward he contacted a Syrian smuggler so he could join them. He said that he went into hiding, changed his appearance, and bought sewing machines to start a new life as a tailor. Allied forces offered a $5 million reward for whoever provided assistance leading to his arrest.
Al-Qadaa’magazine reported that the first judge of the Iraqi High Court for Crimes of Terrorism declared that “the defendant confessed to his crimes without any pressure or coercion and in the presence of the Public Prosecutor and his lawyer.” Those crimes are said to include the killing of a number of Iraqi security forces during his time as a member of Al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad, and participation in a number of kidnappings after 2014.
According to the judge, in his position first as minister of the diwans of (natural) resources and finance, and subsequently as deputy head of ISIS, he drafted military plans, provided resources for the organization, and developed its terrorist activities against the Iraqi and Syrian forces. The judge declared that Al-Jubouri would be tried by the relevant court to receive an appropriate sentence.