The US Department of Justice (DOJ) has made its largest seizure of cryptocurrency accounts allegedly belonging and operated by some of the most feared terrorist organizations, namely al-Qaeda, ISIS, and Hamas.
DOJ Seizes Cryptocurrency Accounts Operated By Terrorists
According to the press release shared by the Justice Department earlier today, US authorities have seized over 300 accounts containing millions of dollars worth of various cryptocurrencies allegedly belonging to terrorist groups.
The announcement specified that al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing, al-Qaeda, and the Islamic State of Iran and the Levant (ISIS) utilized “sophisticated cyber-tools, including the solicitation of cryptocurrency donations from around the world” to acquire the substantial amount.
Attorney General William Barr said that the US has come to expect its enemies to utilize modern technology, social media platforms, and cryptocurrencies to “facilitate their evil and violent agendas.”
However, he reassured that the DOJ 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.”
“Terrorist networks have adapted to technology, conducting complex financial transactions in the digital world, including through cryptocurrencies. IRS-CI special agents in the DC cybercriminal unit work diligently to unravel these financial networks. Today’s actions demonstrate our ongoing commitment to holding malign actors accountable for their crimes.” – commented Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin.
Apart from the cryptocurrency accounts, the US authorities have seized cash, four websites, and four Facebook pages related to the criminal organizations after receiving judicially-authorized warrants.
Bitcoin’s Transparency Was The Key
Despite many believing that Bitcoin transactions are entirely anonymous, that’s not always the case as the three terrorist organizations have come to understand.
The al-Qassam Brigades initiated several Bitcoin fundraising campaigns on separate social media platforms and reassured their followers that every donation will be anonymous.
However, as every Bitcoin transaction appears on its blockchain, the IRS, the HSI, and the FBI were able to locate them. Ultimately, the three government agencies took control over one of the websites belonging to the al-Qassam Brigades. Thus, all funds sent from people seeking to provide material support to the terrorist organization went to Bitcoin wallets controlled by the US.
Operatives from al-Qaeda managed a sophisticated Bitcoin money-laundering network using multiple Telegram channels and other social media platforms to solicit digital asset donations as well. In some instances, they duped victims by purporting as charity organizations. In one such example, they offered to equip terrorists in Syria with weapons.
Acting US Attorney Michael Sherwin said that “while these individuals believe they operated anonymously in the digital space, we have the skill and resolve to find, fix, and prosecute these actors under the full extent of the law.”