US Justice Department Confiscates Cryptocurrency Funds From Terrorist Groups

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In Brief
  • The U.S. Department of Justice has seized millions of dollars in cryptocurrency from terrorist groups.

  • Over 300 cryptocurrency accounts owned and used by terrorist groups were confiscated.

  • Terrorist groups solicited donations on social media to carry out attacks.

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The Trust Project is an international consortium of news organizations building standards of transparency.

The US Justice Department said on Thursday that it has seized millions of dollars in cryptocurrency from three terrorist organizations.

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The DoJ seized over 300 cryptocurrency accounts owned and used by the terrorist groups al-Qaeda, al-Qassam Brigades, and ISIL, Bloomberg reported.

The report claims that these terrorist organizations ran digital campaigns on social media to raise funds to perform terrorist operations. The department identified and dismantled these social media campaigns.

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The U.S. Justice Department said in a statement:

These actions represent the government’s largest-ever seizure of cryptocurrency in the terrorism context.

The U.S. officials also obtained court orders to seize 300 cryptocurrency accounts, four Facebook accounts, and four websites that were related to the terror groups’ criminal enterprises.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin chimed in to say:

Terrorist networks have adapted to technology, conducting complex financial transactions in the digital world, including through cryptocurrencies.

The groups laundered Bitcoin using Telegram and other social media platforms and solicited donations for their cause. The government’s court filing stated that the terrorists mostly used these funds to purchase weapons.

In another case, authorities charged Murat Cakar, who was working as a moderator for the Islamic State, for running a COVID-19-related scam claiming to sell protective face masks online, according to a Washington Post report.

The third case involved a complex investigation of the al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Palestinian Hamas organization. The group allegedly posted on its social media pages that it was seeking Bitcoin donations. The group claimed that the donations were non-traceable and would be used for terrorist attacks.

FBI agents, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Department of Homeland Security seized 150 al-Qassam accounts during their operation.

The DOJ statement read:

The action demonstrates how different terrorist groups have similarly adapted their terror finance activities to the cyber age.

The DOJ added that the seized funds would be directed to victims of terror via the U.S. State Sponsored Terrorism Fund after the investigation is concluded.

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Sujha reports on cryptocurrencies, blockchain developments and markets, operating from the South East Asia timezone. Her work has appeared in CoinDesk, CCN, EconoTimes and Venture Capital Post. She does not currently hold value in any digital currencies. sujhasundar@gmail.com

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