Daily Management Review

29 Arrested In France As Police Bust A Cryptocurrency Scheme To Finance Jihadis


29 Arrested In France As Police Bust A Cryptocurrency Scheme To Finance Jihadis
A complex scheme for financing Islamist extremists in Syria through the use of cryptocurrencies was broken recently by the French police who arrested 29 people from various places all around the country in a vast operation.
Search warrants are out for the two main figures in the scheme, said a statement from the anti-terrorism prosecutor’s office. The statement said that the two persons were French jihadis who have likely been in northwest Syria since 2013 and the security agencies suspect that they were involved in creating “the architecture of this network of terrorism financing.”
The police identified them as Mesut S. and Walid F, - both 25 years of age and are suspected of being members of Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, affiliated with al-Qaida. Bo0th the individuals were convicted in France in 2016 and sentenced in absentia to 10-year prison terms.
Police said that the age group of the 29 people detained for questioning is between 22 to 66 years. Most of the detained are suspected to pro0viding funds into the network. Police also believe that a key role in the cyber-financing system was provided by two of the suspects by providing logistical aid to keep the system working.
A team set up by the French Economy Ministry, called Tracfin, that is tasked with tracing fiscal fraud, money laundering and terror financing, had initially uncovered the scheme to use cryptocurrency for financing extremist groups. Cryptocurrency is a form of digital currency offers users are great deal of anonymity and hence are difficult to trace.
Since 2013, the primary method of financing of jihadis has been through cash transactions which are sent to people in countries neighboring Syria to be smuggled into Syria, said security agencies.  But with tightened surveillance, a more sophisticated and less visible system was adopted by the financers of terror.
The statement from the police said that after the detection by Tracfin of a sophisticated network for transferring of funds to French jihadis remaining in Syria, an investigation was opened by French security agencies.
The target of the latest police action in France was targeted at a financing network that has been functional since 2019. The modus operandi primarily comprised of purchasing of cryptocurrency coupons in France and the details of those were then transferred to jihadis in Syria through secure messaging systems. The jihadis could then were able to retrieve the money through cryptocurrency platforms,
Cryptocurrency coupons worth 10 to 150 euros ($11 to $165) were constantly and anonymously bought by dozens of people in France, said the prosecutor’s office. The purchasers then credited these coupons to accounts that had been opened abroad by jihadis, who then converted the coupons into cryptocurrency. There are online exchanges where holders of cryptocurrencies can be sold for cash.
The police believe that the hundreds of thousands of euros have been transferred through the network to benefit members of al-Qaida who are believed to still be hiding in northwest Syria. Security forces also believe that the money was also transferred to jihadis of the Islamic State group.