The French police have apprehended 29 individuals across the nation suspected of funding Islamist extremists in Syria using cryptocurrencies.
French authorities allege that the arrested individuals are involved in a complex terrorism-fiancing scheme using coupons to finance terror members in Syria as the payments are credited to the extremists’ Bitcoin accounts.
Purchasing cryptocurrency coupons
The terror network is thought to have been active since 2019 as the 29 people, aged 22 to 66, often purchased crypto coupons valued at between 10 and 150 euros ($11 to $175) at different tobacco shops called Tabacs across France.
Upon making the payment, the references were transmitted via secure messaging to Syria-based jihadists who would then credit them to Bitcoin platforms.
The police noted:
“Constant surveillance of these networks prompted terrorist organizations to seek more opacity by using cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin.”
The police revealed that the network’s ringleaders were 25-year old Walid F and Mesut S, both jihadists located in northeastern Syria. They are suspected of belonging to Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, an affiliate of al-Qaeda. In 2016, the two were slapped with a 10-year sentence in absentia and are under an international arrest warrant.
Unraveling terror financing
Tracfin, a team within the French Economy Ministry, mandated with tracing terror financing, money laundering, and fiscal fraud, uncovered the complex terrorism-financing network.
Two of the 29 accomplices are thought to be the masterminds of offering logistical aid to the terror system, which is suspected of supplying hundreds of thousands of euros whose beneficiaries have been al-Qaeda members.
In August, the US Justice Department revealed that it had seized Bitcoin and cryptocurrency worth millions of dollars intended to fund the activities of terror groups like the military arm of Hamas, the Islamic State, and Al-Qaeda. This breakthrough was the largest clampdown on online terrorist fundraising.
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