Israel authorities have identified and confiscated 30 cryptocurrency wallets that were allegedly funding the Hamas group. These wallets, controlled by 12 accounts, are reportedly owned by an exchange firm named al-Mutahadun, which is based in the city of Gaza. Benny Gantz, the defence minister of Israel, approved the seizure of these accounts and declared al-Mutahadun as a terror group itself. The Shamlah family, which runs this exchange firm, has come under the scanner several times in the past.
Israel’s defence ministry has accused these suspicious accounts of assisting “the Hamas terror group, and especially its military wing, by transferring funds amounting to tens of millions of dollars a year,” the Times of Israel has reported.
The exact amount of funds that were wired through these crypto accounts remains undisclosed. Military personnel also assisted the police and ministry officials during the bust.
Formed in 1987, the Hamas has a military wing known as the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades that has conducted many anti-Israel attacks in both Israel and the Palestinian territories since the 1990s, according to the official website of the Director of US National Intelligence.
In 2019, Hamas had appealed for Bitcoin-based donations. It had also adjusted its website to generate new wallet addresses for each transaction, in order to make tracing these funds difficult for regulators, as per a report by Reuters.
Crypto transactions are untraceable and the scope of cryptocurrencies being used to facilitate illicit activities such as money laundering, tax evasion, and terror funding have caused concerns for governments around the world for some years now.
Cryptocurrency-based crime hit a new all-time high in 2021, with illicit addresses receiving $14 billion (roughly Rs. 103,768 crore) over the course of the year, up from $7.8 billion (roughly Rs. 57,813 crore) in 2020, a report by research firm Chainalysis had said in January.
The report further highlighted that as law enforcement agencies are ramping up efforts to bust and stop the exploitation of the cryptocurrencies from criminals, its criminal usage is likely to go down in the coming days.