Crypto enthusiasts everywhere are constantly challenging the idea that bitcoin and cryptocurrencies are used to fund terrorist groups and commit to illicit programs. They would like to think that somewhere down the line, most of the people that use digital currencies are doing so for noble purposes, so whenever it turns out to be true that there are bad actors out there seeking to use bitcoin for illegal gains, the data can be a bit disappointing.
Bitcoin Still Has a Dark Side
This is the latest news coming out of France, which at the time of writing, has arrested roughly 29 individuals who have been charged with utilizing bitcoin and crypto to fund a jihadist terrorist group. The organization was based in Syria according to a prosecutor’s office, and there are still two men at large who are believed to be leading the organization. They are two 25-year-old men who go by the name Mesut S. and Walid F.
Both figures are believed to have been in Syria since 2013. They are suspected of being members of the Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham organization, which is widely associated with al-Qaida. Initially, they were both charged and found guilty in France, but could not be found within the country’s borders, and thus were sentenced – in absentia – to ten years each in prison.
The roughly 29 people that have been charged in France are all within the ages of 22 and 66. While many are simply accused of forwarding money to the extremists, two of them – who at press time, are unnamed – are believed to have had major roles in ensuring the organization was funded and are thought to be leaders amongst the terrorist organization.
The French Economy Ministry is the group that uncovered the plot to fund the group. A special team belonging to the Ministry known as Tracfin was behind the discovery. Tracfin is widely responsible for uncovering money laundering schemes and fraudulent activity.
A More Technical Approach
For the most part, cash is still widely utilized to fund terrorist groups, as cash still remains widely anonymous and hard to track, though over the last seven years, things have taken a more complicated turn, and bitcoin – though not completely – is still believed to give terrorists a certain level of security. Often, several transactions occur at once, with different forms of currency sent to multiple addresses. This makes them harder to track and allows bad actors to get away with crimes.
The investigation into the present organization was first opened in early January of this year. It is believed that the organization may have been active since early 2019. Several of the people allegedly involved in the scheme bought crypto coupons worth as little as $11 or as much as $165. They were then sent to jihadists who converted the money and utilized it to grow the operation.