US seizes millions in cryptocurrency from terrorist groups

The U.S. Department of Justice seized millions in cryptocurrency from three terrorist groups who were using Bitcoin to fund their heinous activities.

Overall, authorities seized over 300 cryptocurrency accounts, four Facebook pages, four websites, and US$2 million [AUS$2.79 million] in cryptocurrencies. The three terrorist groups targeted by the U.S. government are ISIS, al-Qaeda, and the al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing.

Seeking cryptocurrency for terrorism

Each of the three terrorist groups operated sophisticated operations to bring in cryptocurrency donations. ISIS ran a website that supposedly sold FDA-approved N95 respirator masks, a vital component in dealing with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

However, the masks were not FDA-approved, and the touted supply of masks did not exist. Authorities seized the website in question, along with four affiliated Facebook pages.

The al-Qassam Brigades sought Bitcoin donations through its three official websites. The terrorists told its supporters that BTC transactions were untraceable and that any donations would be used for terrorist acts. Supporters have found out that Bitcoin transactions are, indeed, quite traceable.

All 150 cryptocurrency accounts that were used to launder revenue for the al-Qassam Brigades were seized by the IRS, FBI, and HSI agents. They also took over the terrorist websites and tracked any donations made. Arrest warrants were then issued for any U.S.-based individual who donated cryptocurrency to the terrorist group.

As for al-Qaeda, that terrorist organization operated a Bitcoin money-laundering scheme from Syria. The group used Telegram and other social media platforms to solicit donations from their supporters. In a brazen manner, al-Qaeda even portrayed itself as a charity even though the “charity” in question openly said it was seeking cryptocurrency to fund terrorist acts.

Law enforcement infiltrated the campaign and is now seeking the seizure of 155 cryptocurrency assets belonging to the al-Qaeda operation.

Major takedown of terrorist funding

The Justice Department notes, “These three terror finance campaigns all relied on sophisticated cyber-tools, including the solicitation of cryptocurrency donations from around the world. The action demonstrates how different terrorist groups have similarly adapted their terror finance activities to the cyber age. Each group used cryptocurrency and social media to garner attention and raise funds for their terror campaigns.”

Attorney General William P. Barr says:

“It should not surprise anyone that our enemies use modern technology, social media platforms and cryptocurrency to facilitate their evil and violent agendas. The Department of Justice will employ all available resources to protect the lives and safety of the American public from terrorist groups. We will prosecute their money laundering, terrorist financing and violent illegal activities wherever we find them.”

Secretary of the Treasury, Steven T. Mnuchin adds, “Terrorist networks have adapted to technology, conducting complex financial transactions in the digital world, including through cryptocurrencies. IRS-CI special agents in the DC cybercrimes unit work diligently to unravel these financial networks. Today’s actions demonstrate our ongoing commitment to holding malign actors accountable for their crimes.”

Featured image courtesy Everything is stock/Shutterstock

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