U.S. Seizes Bitcoin From Crypto Wallets Tied to Terrorist Groups
The U.S. Government has reportedly seized $2 million worth of bitcoin from 300 cryptocurrency wallets associated with fundraising campaigns from terrorist groups that were looking to obtain crypto to fund attacks.
According to the New York Times, the Trump administration seized wallets tied to three terrorist organizations: the al-Qassam Brigades – Hamas’s military wing – the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS).
The U.S. Department of Justice has said this was the “government’s largest-ever seizure of cryptocurrency in the terrorism context.” The move indicates the government was able to both identify and infiltrate terrorist or criminal organizations. The funds were reportedly seized from crypto wallets “held by banklike institutions.”
The U.S. government also blacklisted cryptocurrency wallets containing millions of dollars worth of cryptoassets, making it harder for those operating the wallets to cash out, as centralized trading platforms will likely block transactions from these addresses.
Michael Sherwin, acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, stated:
This case is really historic and unprecedented for several reasons. We’re looking at three different entities that were targeted by the government to prevent financing going to these very dangerous terrorist organizations.
The operation was a multiagency effort that included the FBI, ICE, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Justice Department’s National Security Division, which used undercover operations to infiltrate the organizations’ fundraising campaigns. John Demers, the assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s National Security Division, pointed out the seizure will deprive the organizations of “millions of dollars.”
The organizations were said to be raising funds via several websites and on social media. As they were using blockchain-based cryptocurrencies they did not take typical steps to conceal their identity.
By raising cryptocurrency on social media, these terrorists tried to bring terrorist financing into the current age. But these actions show that law enforcement remains a step ahead of them.
Officials stressed that the government has developed tools and techniques to identify those behind blockchain-based transactions, getting around bitcoin’s pseudonymity. In the operation, the government even took control of a website used for soliciting bitcoin donations and operated it for 30 days, compiling information about the accounts donating funds. Investigations into who the donors continue.
As CryptoGlobe reported, earlier this year Israel’s International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) has alleged that Hamas is using bitcoin for funding.