Middle East Monitor – French police arrested 29 individuals yesterday in a sting operation against an alleged network of financiers of extremist groups in Syria, in one of the largest such operations in the country.
According to French counter-terror prosecutors, the network conducted its financing activities through the purchasing of cryptocurrency coupons which enabled it to send references to contacts within Syria who then credited them to bitcoin accounts.
This method of funding the extremist groups and contacts is markedly different in comparison to the usual methods of transferring funds and laundering money to groups, with the rise in the use of cryptocurrencies offering possible alternatives to terror groups and their donors.
The prosecutors’ statement confirmed this, saying: “Constant surveillance of these networks prompted terrorist organizations to seek more opacity by using crypto-currencies such as bitcoin.”
Those 29 individuals – arrested from various sites across the country – reportedly began their activities in 2019 and the investigation by the French authorities was launched in January this year. It was a branch of the French Finance Ministry named Tracfin that discovered the network, claiming that hundreds of thousands of euros are suspected of having already been supplied to the contacts.
It was not revealed who the individuals were or if they belonged to a specific organisation, nor was it clarified which terror group they were transferring the funds to, but state-actors have been increasingly encouraged to crack down on money laundering operations and the financing of militias in Syria and other areas in the Middle East.