By Dan Byrne for AMLi
EIGHT people have been charged for using cryptocurrencies to finance Islamic extremists in Syria, following their arrest by French police early last week.
Three of the eight individuals were handed charges of financing terrorism and terrorist conspiracy in related cases, while the other five have been charged solely with financing terrorism, Reuters reports.
They are part of a large group of twenty-nine individuals, taken into custody in late September. They were alleged to be part of a laundering ring which facilitated transfers worth several hundred thousand euro via cryptocurrencies to groups affiliated with Al-Qaeda and Islamic State.
The rest of this larger group were eventually released without charge later last week.
The charges come following an investigation which began in January 2020, led by the French antiterrorism office (PNAT).
It sought to probe a suspected financing network which they claim has been active since 2019.
The network involved the extensive purchase of cryptocurrency coupons from tobacconists across France, which were then “credited to accounts opened from abroad by jihadists, who were responsible for converting them into cryptocurrency on bitcoin purchasing platforms,” PNAT said in a statement.
French police managed to conduct a co-ordinated arrest of the 29 individuals in 55 different search raids, carried out across 26 of France’s regional départments, according to Le Parisien.
Authorities mentioned that their investigations were hindered by the fact that those involved could purchase the cryptocurrency coupons anonymously.
Some of the arrested were suspected of sending money to relatives based in refugee camps within Syria.
A lawyer for representing four of the individuals involved criticised the investigation and subsequent raids as “making the families look like terrorist financiers.”
Without repatriation efforts to reconnect broken families, she stressed that some would “be forced to go through intermediaries to send money. They have no other choice. It is for the survival of their loved ones.”
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