They financed terrorists using Bitcoin: arrested by French police

The group financed a terrorist organisation by buying crypto-currency coupons in authorised French tobacconists.

Several accomplices accused of financing a jihadist network in Syria were arrested following an undercover operation by the French police, despite the use of cryptocurrency coupons in an attempt to cover their tracks.

In an official statement, the police stated that „constant surveillance of these networks has prompted terrorist organisations to seek greater opacity by using cryptocurrency coupons such as Bitcoin,“ as reported on 30 September.

As of 2019, the 29 accomplices allegedly supported the operations of an Al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist cell called „Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham.

The architects of the network appear to be two 25-year-old French jihadists, currently believed to be in northeastern Syria. In 2016, both were sentenced in absentia to 10 years in prison.

The 29 members of the network were arrested after being caught in recent months buying crypto-currency coupons from 10 to 150 euros each at several French tobacconists on several occasions.

These shops, known in France as tabacs, were integrated last year into the network of crypto coupon services to encourage the adoption of cryptocurrency by the French public.

The report published today on Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham’s financing highlights that there are currently around 24,000 licensed tabacs in France.

In addition to the coupons that the defendants allegedly used to transfer Bitcoin (BTC) to the accounts of Syrian accomplices, these tabacs support a range of services dedicated to small payments, such as debit card top-ups and money coupons, which do not require ID.

The prosecutor of the counter-terrorism department said that the use of crypto coupons by the network represents a departure from the more widespread choice of cash to support illegal activities.

As previously reported by Cointelegraph, a number of militant groups, most of which some countries call a terrorist organisation, are increasingly using crypto coupons to support their funding activities. Many of these organisations are financially isolated, excluded from the services of a large number of global banks that use prevention mechanisms against terrorist financing.