Justice Dept. seizes millions of dollars in cryptocurrency allegedly linked to terrorism

Terror cyberfinance campaigns are being targeted by the US government.

Corinne Reichert Senior Writer
Corinne Reichert (she/her) grew up in Sydney, Australia and moved to California in 2019. She holds degrees in law and communications, and currently writes news, analysis and features for CNET across the topics of electric vehicles, broadband networks, mobile devices, big tech, artificial intelligence, home technology and entertainment. In her spare time, she watches soccer games and F1 races, and goes to Disneyland as often as possible.
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DOJ has seized millions of dollars in cryptocurrency that it alleges is linked with terrorism campaigns.

Photo Illustration by Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Department of Justice has seized cryptocurrency accounts that it alleges are associated with three terrorism campaigns. The operation was detailed Thursday, when a criminal complaint was unsealed in the District of Columbia. Under warrants, authorities seized more than 300 cryptocurrency accounts, four websites, four Facebook pages and millions of dollars. It amounts to the US government's "largest-ever seizure of cryptocurrency in the terrorism context."

The groups targeted by the seizure were al-Qaeda; Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS); and al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas. The three campaigns allegedly solicited cryptocurrency donations globally, according to the DOJ.

Al-Qaeda used a bitcoin money laundering network that it operated via messaging app Telegram and social media, DOJ alleges. It also alleged the ISIS campaign used COVID-19 pandemic-related fraud, gaining cryptocurrency by selling fake personal protective equipment like N95 masks.

"Our enemies use modern technology, social media platforms and cryptocurrency to facilitate their evil and violent agendas," alleged Attorney General William P. Barr. "We will prosecute their money laundering, terrorist financing and violent illegal activities wherever we find them."

DOJ worked alongside the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the IRS, the DC United States Attorney's Office and National Security Division. The funds seized can be used for the US Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund once the case concludes.