Hamas has disbursed Bitcoin donations on Binance, LocalBitcoins – CoinDesk – CoinDesk

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Hamas harvested generous Bitcoin donations and sent them via Binance when violence escalated in Gaza this year, on-chain data shows.

According to three blockchain analytics firms and CoinDesk’s own analysis, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the militant wing of Hamas, have received up to $ 100,000 in Bitcoin since early 2021 – with donations spike in May when Israel and Hamas exchanged multiple rocket attacks, resulting in hundreds of casualties.

Since May, Bitcoin has been sent from Hamas’ wallets to Binance through three transactions, the last of which was not until June 6. The exchange blocked the wallet after CoinDesk asked for a comment.

“Our team has checked the addresses and can confirm that the receiving wallet has been blocked,” said Binance spokeswoman Jessica Jung in an email to CoinDesk.

The address appears to have been active two days ago, with CoinDesk recording both inbound and outbound transactions this month.

“In principle, we cannot comment on any communication with the law enforcement authorities. We regularly work with and work with law enforcement agencies. We have a strong track record of helping law enforcement agencies around the world, ”added Jung. The exchange did not confirm whether it was cooperating with law enforcement at the time.

Bitcoin flows into Gaza

Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that bitcoin donations to Hamas rose during the recent escalation of the armed conflict in Gaza, citing an unnamed Hamas commander. No details were released at this point, but blockchain analytics firms have been able to track cash flow since then.

Pamela Clegg, VP of Financial Investigations at CipherTrace, said the company has been able to identify recent donations sent to both wallets identified by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in 2020 and to new, previously unknown Bitcoin addresses.

“Almost 100 of these identified addresses received payments totaling almost two Bitcoin in May, especially since the beginning of the most recent conflict. Once received, these funds were consolidated and transferred to an identified global exchange, ”said Clegg, declining to name the exchange.

She added that “to the knowledge of CipherTrace, no action has been taken to block these newly received funds from government agencies.”

That global exchange was, according to the Crystal blockchain analytics system, Binance. On May 31, over 1.59 BTC (about $ 57,000) was paid out from Hamas’ wallet cluster via Binance. On June 7, according to Crystal’s data, two smaller transactions totaling more than 0.12 BTC (~ USD 4,370) reached Binance over several hops via intermediate wallets.

Visualization of withdrawal transactions in June through Crystal Blockchain (Crystal Blockchain)

At the beginning of this year, Hamas used another fiat ramp: on January 31, more than 0.82 BTC (~ $ 27,000) was taken from the cluster to LocalBitcoins.

Jukka Blomberg, chief marketing officer at LocalBitcoins, said the company is applying blockchain analytics tools to all transactions flowing through the platform and said it is enforcing KYC standards.

“Unfortunately, we are unable to share information about specific cases or specific accounts, and furthermore, any information provided to law enforcement agencies for open investigations cannot be shared further at this time,” he said, but declined to confirm whether LocalBitcoins actually cooperated with law enforcement agencies.

Frozen money

In August 2020, the DOJ issued a complaint accusing al-Qassam Brigades of money laundering, operating unlicensed money transfer companies, and “providing material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization, Hamas.”

According to the DOJ, al-Qassam brigades have been collecting funds in Bitcoin since 2019, first with an account with Coinbase, then with an unprotected wallet, and finally with sophisticated software that generates unique addresses for new donations. Hamas has been promoting bitcoin donation options through Twitter and its official website.

In recent years, Hamas has used accounts on exchanges like Coinbase, Binance, Bittrex, Poloniex, Bitstamp, Huobi and CEX.io, as well as wallet provider Xapo, according to Crystal’s data. Until May, however, the donations weren’t too large.

“We saw a remarkable increase in the number of payments to Hamas, which resulted in the Hamas group receiving over $ 80,000 in BTC last month,” Kyrylo Chykhradze, product director at Crystal Blockchain, told CoinDesk. “The funds were ultimately paid out through one of the well-known Virtual Asset Service Providers (VASP).

Another blockchain detective firm, Elliptic, released Thursday the 3rd. Before May, Bitcoin only came to Hamas in a small trickle from time to time, but “on May 10, the day the last conflict started, those rose Donate, “says the post.

“More than $ 73,000 has been donated since the latest wave of violence began. This is more than double the total received in the last two years the fundraiser has been active, “said Elliptic.

Elliptic added that the vast majority of funds have been sent to a “large, regulated cryptocurrency exchange” that “can freeze funds and provide valuable information to law enforcement agencies.”

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