The Justice Department today announced the dismantling of three terrorist financing cyber-enabled campaigns, involving the al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing, al-Qaeda, and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). This coordinated operation is detailed in three forfeiture complaints and a criminal complaint unsealed today in the District of Columbia. These actions represent the government’s largest-ever seizure of cryptocurrency in the terrorism context.
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. Pursuant to judicially-authorized warrants, U.S. authorities seized millions of dollars, over 300 cryptocurrency accounts, four websites, and four Facebook pages all related to the criminal enterprise.
“It should not surprise anyone that our enemies use modern technology, social media platforms and cryptocurrency to facilitate their evil and violent agendas,” said Attorney General William P. Barr.
The DoJ asserts the al-Qassam Brigades solicited Bitcoin donations through social media and its websites. Agents from the IRS, HSI and FBI were able to seize 150 cryptocurrency accounts tied to the group. Individuals based in the U.S. who allegedly donated to them were subject to criminal search warrants, while the District of Columbia U.S. Attorney’s Office has laid money laundering charges against two Turkish individuals linked to those fundraising efforts.
As for ISIS, someone tied to the group allegedly ran a COVID-19 protective gear scam. Murat Cakar, who the DoJ describes as “an ISIS facilitator,” was selling phony N95 respirator masks and other protective equipment through a website, according to a complaint. One US-based customer tried to buy gear for hospitals, nursing homes and fire departments. Officials seized that site, along with four related Facebook pages.