Police in Syria arrested 29 persons on Tuesday for participating in an operation used to finance Jihadists in Syria through cryptocurrencies. This arrest will help the Syrian authorities stem money laundering and the use of digital currencies to fund terrorism.
According to local publication, France24, the operation has been operating since 2019 and involved the culprits buying crypto coupons in France and then sending the details to Jihadists in Syria. The Jihadists would then convert the coupons to cryptocurrency before selling it for cash on crypto exchanges.
Notably, the 29 persons were caught financing the Syrian Jihadists who were responsible for inciting civil unrest in Syria. In particular, these criminals aged between 22 and 66, were identified by the police after frequenting tobacco shops in France over the past eight months to buy bitcoin coupons worth between $11 and $177. It is believed that hundreds of thousands of euros were sent via this particular network, subsequently financing terrorist groups in Syria.
The group of twenty-nine did not typically finance jihadists using cryptocurrencies— they had instead been using traditional financing methods like fiat currencies since 2013. They only resorted to crypto last year supposedly due to the decentralized and anonymous nature of cryptocurrencies which would be useful in concealing their activities.
A statement by the French anti-terrorism prosecutor stated:
“Constant surveillance of these networks prompted terrorist organizations to seek more opacity by using crypto-currencies such as bitcoin.”
The French police identified two persons who are believed to be the masterminds behind the terrorist financing ring. The pair, Walid F and Mesut S (both aged 25) are stationed in northeastern Syria. Mesut and Walid were both sentenced to 10 years in prison in their absence four years ago. They also have an international warrant issued for their arrest.
While critics will capitalize on the fact that bitcoin is increasingly being preferred by terrorists due to the fact that it offers anonymity of transactions, the OG cryptocurrency has utility other than aiding crimes like terrorism financing. Traditional investors like Paul Tudor Jones and MicroStrategy have previously proclaimed their confidence in bitcoin’s future prospects amidst central banks’ irresponsible quantitative easing policies.