The world of fintech has sunk into a love-hate relationship with bitcoin. Yet terrorists have something else, they’re completely in love with the digital currency. In other words, there’s no looking back on a system that requires confidential funding.
Back in 2018, a terrorist organization named Hama urged its supporters to send them money through bitcoins. The terrorist group that runs the Gaza Strip, through its bitcoin campaign, was able to collect a few thousand dollars. Today, via crypto, the insurgent group has upped their bitcoin game and also developed more advanced tools for coping with finances.
Another group would also go ahead and request financial assistance for the jihad-related cause. In 2017, the cause sought to improve the squalid fighting conditions for the fortified trench in Syria. Even this group turned to fundraise through bitcoin.
The financing of terrorist activities has become more sophisticated over time. The anonymity of technology has attracted even more militant groups. The result is that criminals are able to circumvent global compliance laws, sanctions, and tracking.
Numerous financing sanctions against terrorist groups have been imposed under international law. For example, the U.S. Treasury Department has sanctioned the IRGC Qods Force and the Al Qassam Brigades for sending millions of dollars to HAMAS. The embedding of the funds was followed by a complicated channel of traditional means, through Iran’s Qods Force and Lebanon’s Hizballah, all the way to HAMA.
Despite the sanctions, HAMA has still been able to raise funds through digitally encrypted cryptocurrencies. In fact, these militant groups are providing their supporters with information on how to use the technology. “Army of the Nation” popularly known as the Jaysh al-Umma, a Salafi-jihad terrorist group inspired by Al Qaeda put up a banner thanking its supporters for donating through crypto. The banner went on to state:
“It is appropriate for the nature and conditions of our current age in most countries of the world, especially in light of this war against the Islamic nation in general, and its Mujahideen in particular, as it provides confidentiality in transferring money from and to any country around the world in a technical way available to everyone, God willing.”
The sanctions on Iran are also worth noting. Such sanctions have also impacted the operations of a few militants in the region. The consequence was the incorporation of bitcoin into the funding of militant groups in Iran and other neighboring countries. The long Wall Journey published an article entitled, “Palestinian Militant Groups Appeal for Bitcoin Supporters.” This post highlights numerous militant groups that have been soliciting for funding through bitcoin.
Efforts have been made to curb this source of funding. Yet, on the other hand, the organizations have been educating their followers on how to invest without being exposed. Financial regulators and prosecutors are also finding better ways to track and efficiently enforce operational controls on transactions. Meanwhile, the simplicity, accessibility, and convenience provided by Bitcoin has knocked authorities off. Maybe the use of cryptocurrencies by terrorists is here to stay.