The US Department of Justice revealed that groups used the accounts to solicit donations in crypto, including by trying to raise money from the sale of fraudulent personal protective equipment for the coronavirus pandemic. Law enforcement agency seized millions of dollars worth of cryptocurrency that is linked to militant groups. The use of crypto among terror organizations has increased over the last few years as some cryptocurrencies are hard to trace by authorities.
“The largest-ever seizure of virtual currency funds related to terrorism.”
The law enforcement agency described it as the largest-ever seizure of cryptocurrency funds related to terrorism. It’s also part of a broader Justice Department goal of disrupting the financing of militant groups, including those designated as foreign terror groups. Cryptocurrencies are used for illicit transactions because they are perceived as hard to trace, and one of the groups singled out Thursday explicitly encouraged donations by telling potential contributors that the money trail would be difficult for law enforcement to untangle, the department alleged.
Assistant Attorney General John Demers said that the legal action that included undercover law enforcement work and a forfeiture complaint filed in Washington’s federal court is meant to deprive terror organizations of funds needed to buy weapons and develop fighters.
Authorities also took down websites and Facebook pages related to the scheme.
The department further revealed that it confiscated about $2 million US so far and more than 300 cryptocurrency accounts, four websites, and four Facebook pages related to the schemes. Officials noted that the seized funds are expected to be turned over to a fund for victims of terrorist attacks. One prong of the US investigation targeted the military wing of Hamas, known as the al-Qassam Brigades, which last year began a public fundraising campaign through social media to solicit bitcoin donations. Though terrorist organizations still heavily rely on cash to facilitate their activities, the use of crypto has also increased in recent years.