Bitcoin has come under massive criticism for its ties to terrorist groups and other nefarious activities. Although the same can be said about traditional cash and other assets, Bitcoin has gotten more jab for its ability to hide transaction details of the users.
On Sunday, the Jerusalem Post reported that the al-Nasser Salah al-Deen Brigades, a military wing that has been terrorizing several Middle Eastern states, has been able to receive a treasure trove of Bitcoin over the past few years to finance its operations. Citing finding a made by the Israeli International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT), the report explained that the group- which has been linked to the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC- has gotten Bitcoins from overseas donors and used them to find operations in and around the Gaza strip.
Bitcoin-Funded Criminal Groups Have Thrived
The PRC was formed back in 2000, and is a coalition of armed local groups across the Gaza strip. At the time, they banded together to form what they believed was a conciliatory approach taken by Fatah and the Palestinian Authority towards the Israeli regime. The Brigaded were especially active in the two wars in Gaza (fought in 2008/2009 and 2015), and they most recently clashed with the Israeli government in 2018 over the death of a PRC militant.
Given their extensive rap sheet, it’s only right that they get their funds from somewhere. Sadly for the crypto industry’s reputation, it seems to have been Bitcoin. The report says that the group has been able to play several of Bitcoin’s advantages, including an ability to evade any economic sanctions, the ability for donors to remain anonymous, and support for quick, cross-border transactions.
The group’s Bitcoin wallet was found to have made up to 4,500 transactions over the past four years, receiving a total of 3,370 BTC (about $29 million, considering current prices). Investigators found that the wallet was linked to cash4ps, a financial platform that had also maintained an account with the Islamic National Bank- a financial institution that has been designated by the United States as a terrorist organization.
The wallet in question was linked to Hamas in February 2019 by the Bitcoin Abuse Database, with the database explaining that it had been used in fundraising operations by a terrorist organization.
Brazen Support for Militants is Still Rampant
This is obviously not the first time that terrorist groups- particularly those heavily involved in the Middle Eastern conflicts- will be using crypto to fund their operations. Last year, Abu Obeida, a spokesperson for the militant arm of Hamas, appealed to the group’s supporters to support its cause financially with Bitcoin.
In his message, the spokesperson called on “all lovers of the resistance and the supporters of our righteous cause to support the resistance financially using ‘Bitcoin’ currency,” adding that the group planned to be transparent with everyone regarding how the funds would be spent.
The Zionist enemy is fighting the resistance by trying to cut its support by all means, but the resistance lovers in all the world are fighting these Zionist attempts and are seeking to find all possible support for the resistance,” he added.