WASHINGTON (WLNS) – Today, officials announced a global disruption of three terror organizations’ finances.
The Justice Department’s seizure of cryptocurrency accounts involves the al-Qassam Brigades which is Hamas’s military wing, al-Qaeda, and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or ISIS.
These three terror finance campaigns all relied on sophisticated cyber-tools, including the solicitation of cryptocurrency donations from around the world.
U.S. authorities seized millions of dollars, over 300 cryptocurrency accounts, four websites, and four Facebook pages all related to the criminal enterprise.
“It should not surprise anyone that our enemies use modern technology, social media platforms and cryptocurrency to facilitate their evil and violent agendas,” said Attorney General William Barr.
In 2019, the al-Qassam Brigades posted a call on its social media page for bitcoin donations to fund its campaign of terror.
Working together, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents tracked and seized all 150 cryptocurrency accounts that laundered funds to and from the al-Qassam Brigades’ accounts. Law enforcement executed criminal search warrants relating to United States-based subjects who donated to the terrorist campaign.
Another finance campaign involves a scheme by al-Qaeda and affiliated terrorist groups that are largely based out of Syria.
Undercover HSI agents communicated with the administrator of a related charity that was seeking to finance terrorism via bitcoin donations. The administrator stated that he hoped for the destruction of the United States, discussed the price for funding surface-to-air missiles, and warned about possible criminal consequences from carrying out a jihad in the United States.
The complaint against an ISIS facilitator combines the Justice Department’s initiatives of combatting COVID-19 related fraud with combatting terrorism financing. In addition to seizing the website, the department seized four related Facebook pages used to facilitate the scheme.
Murat Cakar attempted to sell fake personal protective equipment or PPE on a website that claimed to sell FDA approved N95 masks. The site administrators offered to sell these items to customers across the globe, including a customer in the United States who sought to purchase N95 masks and other protective equipment for hospitals, nursing homes, and fire departments.
“The United States has averted the further victimization of those seeking COVID-19 protective gear, and disrupted the continued funding of ISIS,” says a Department of Justice press release.
The Justice Departments’ actions represent the largest-ever seizure of cryptocurrency in the terrorism context.
The funds connected to terrorism may in whole or in part be directed to the United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund after the case concludes.