The National Intelligence Agency (NIA) in a charge sheet filed last month has claimed that an Islamic State (IS) operative has been using a Bitcoin wallet address. While terror organizations are known to be cryptocurrency to plan and carry out attacks, this is the first documented allegation of use of digital currency for terror activity in India.
The US Justice Department, on August 13, 2020, had said that it seized about $2 million in Bitcoin and other types of cryptocurrency from accounts of three Salafi-Jihadi extremist groups, including the Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. It stated that this was the largest-ever seizure of cryptocurrency by US intelligence agencies in the context of terrorism.
In the charge sheet, the NIA claims that Jahanzaib Sami, an IS operative, had arranged the Bitcoin wallet address through a British contact. Sami asked associates to deposit funds into this wallet. The authorities, on March 8, arrested 36-year-old Sami and his wife Hina Bashir in Delhi for allegedly planning to carry out attacks. Its alleged that the duo received the Bitcoin address on an instant messaging app Threema, from an account called Caged Pearls, and this belongs to a British woman based in Syria. The charge sheet, as per reports, states that she had given the Bitcoin wallet address to Sami and told him to deposit money into that account. Moreover, the accused was also in touch with a Libya-based IS operative who is said to have possessed an ID ‘Sech Tech’, to discuss arranging funds through blockchain technology, which is a secure form of public ledger for the online funds. The NIA said Sech Tech is a member of IS’s intelligence and media unit and told Sami that he works in dark web and provides Bitcoins for funding of the terror outfit.
Research reveals that with the development of digital cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Central Asian jihadists actively began to exploit this innovative financial transaction system to support their attacks and other terrorist activities. The first advertisements of Central Asian terrorist groups crowdfunding campaigns accepting Bitcoin for terror purposes in Syria appeared on the Telegram channel in 2017. A self-proclaimed charity group Al-Sadaqah, in English on Telegram, explicitly relying on the English-speaking western sponsors, called on them to make Bitcoin donations to finance the Malhama Tactical and the Mujahedeen fighting against the Assad regime in northeastern Syria.