An August 13 press release announced that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of the Treasury dismantled a crypto-centered terrorist finance campaign by the world’s top terror organizations.
U.S. authorities reported that they had successfully targeted the Al-Qassam Brigades, Al-Qaeda, and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) in a coordinated operation that led to three forfeiture complaints and a criminal complaint that marks a significant milestone in anti-terror law enforcement.
In highlight, the news release intimated that the latest developments represented Uncle Sam’s biggest-ever seizure of cryptocurrency within terror financing circles. It noted that the three terror finance campaigns depended on complex cyber-tools to solicit for crypto donations across the planet.
Thanks to judicially-authorized warrants, U.S. law enforcement agencies seized cryptocurrency amounting to millions of dollars linked to more than 300 digital currency accounts, three online platforms, and four social media accounts.
The U.S. government reports that the crypto successfully seized in the operation may be earmarked for deposits into the United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund following a successful conclusion to the high profile case.
Al-Qassam Brigade Campaign
The first complaint involved the Al-Qassam Brigades’ online crypto fundraising initiative. The criminal organization is reported to have called for Bitcoin donations in 2019 to enable its terror campaign.
The Al-Qassam Brigades then shifted their solicitation efforts to its websites – alqassam.net, alqassam.ps and qassam.ps – in an effort to collect as much money as they could.
In the end, a successful U.S. law enforcement operation managed to track and seize all their 150 crypto accounts.
The Al-Qaeda terror finance campaign is reported to have operated a robust Bitcoin money laundering network that relied on Telegram channels and other social media sites to solicit funds for their terror campaign.
A law enforcement operation exposed the terror organization’s obfuscation techniques and is now seeking the forfeiture of 155 crypto assets related to Al-Qaeda.
The third complaint combined the U.S. law enforcement goal of tackling the crimes related to COVID-19 fraud and terrorism financing.
The complaint exposed a plot by an ISIS facilitator Murat Cakar, who was charged with managing a number of ISIS cybercriminal operations, to sell counterfeit COVID-19 related items through the recently-seized FaceMaskCenter.com.
The online platform claimed to provide FDA-approved coronavirus face masks to customers when, in reality, it engaged in the illegal sale of unapproved items. The website’s admins promoted their trade by claiming to have an unlimited supply of the N95 masks in the face of a global shortage of the items.
Pursuant to the operation by U.S. authorities, the site and four social media pages affiliated with the ISIS operative were closed down.
The latest U.S. government action against the world of terrorist financing has shown just how determined law enforcement has become in cracking down against illicit cryptocurrency applications.
It has become quite clear that criminals can no longer hide behind the veil of cryptocurrencies to enable their operations, even as terrorist organizations seem to be adapting their finance initiatives to befit the cyber age.
A quick scan of the three groups indicate a striking similarity in how they operate – the terror groups employed social media and cryptocurrency to increase court public attention and raise money for their campaigns.
For now, the charged suspects have not faced trial in court and so legally speaking, these are just accusations.
Otherwise, it is expected that donors to the terror campaigns, who exist across the United States and other locations across the globe, will be identified and charged in the law enforcement bid to fully uncover the world of terrorist financing.