The U.S. Department of Justice is trying to seize bitcoin from 155 addresses it alleges were used by Al Qaeda to fund terrorism.
In a complaint for forfeiture filed Thursday, the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Internal Revenue Service cyber-crimes unit claim that Al Qaeda created a sophisticated money-laundering operation through a network of Telegram channels, which they used to solicit bitcoin donations intended to fund acts of terror.
“Al-Qaeda and affiliated terrorist groups have been operating a BTC money laundering network using Telegram channels and other social media platforms to solicit BTC donations to further their terrorist goals,” the complaint read. “As described below, al-Qaeda and affiliated terrorist groups operate a number of Telegram channels and purport to act as charities when, in fact, they are soliciting funds for the mujahadeen.”
The complaint starts with donations sent to a Telegram group called “Tawheed & Jihad Media,” which began soliciting bitcoin donations in April 2019. Investigators used Chainalysis and Excygent to track bitcoin transfers from these organizations over the last 18 months.
Overall, the investigators found 155 different crypto addresses they claim are tied to Al Qaeda and various other organizations allegedly supporting the terrorist group.
The total amount of crypto stored on the addresses was not shared.
“The Defendant Properties are subject to forfeiture to the United States … as assets of a foreign terrorist organization engaged in planning or perpetrating any federal crime of terrorism,” the complaint said.
According to the Middle East Media Research Institute, Telegram groups were soliciting bitcoin for terrorist groups as recently as July 2020.