On Thursday, the US Justice Department announced it had seized $2 million in cryptocurrency that was intended to finance the activities of Daesh, al-Qaeda and the al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas. Federal authorities also seized over 300 cryptocurrency accounts, four websites, and four Facebook pages all related to the terrorist organizations.
“These three terror finance campaigns all relied on sophisticated cyber-tools, including the solicitation of cryptocurrency donations from around the world. The action demonstrates how different terrorist groups have similarly adapted their terror finance activities to the cyber age. Each group used cryptocurrency and social media to garner attention and raise funds for their terror campaigns,” the Justice Department’s statement reads.
“It should not surprise anyone that our enemies use modern technology, social media platforms and cryptocurrency to facilitate their evil and violent agendas,” said US Attorney General William Barr in the DoJ release. “The Department of Justice will employ all available resources to protect the lives and safety of the American public from terrorist groups. We will prosecute their money laundering, terrorist financing and violent illegal activities wherever we find them.”
Justice Department prosecutors said that donations made in such campaigns were not anonymous, and agents with the Internal Revenue Service, Homeland Security Investigations and the Federal Bureau of Investigation tracked and seize all 150 cryptocurrency accounts that laundered funds for the al-Qassam Brigades while also executing criminal search warrants for those who donated money from within the United States.
"Two million dollars is a lot of equipment that they can buy, a lot of weapons, a lot of training that they can fund, a lot of tickets to fly people around the world," Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers told reporters, according to CNN. "This is going to make a big difference in their operation."
Officials from the Justice Department said the seized funds would probably have been used on weapons and training terrorists. They also said that the groups both openly asked for donations and attempted to deceive people into contributing unknowingly. For example, Daesh allegedly set up a website in February that claimed to be selling personal protective equipment at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In recently unsealed charges by the US Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia, two Turkish nationals, Mehmet Akti and Husamettin Karatas, were indicted for allegedly acting as money launderers in similar fundraising schemes.