Canadian charged with trying to raise bitcoin for Islamic State

Canadian charged with trying to raise bitcoin for Islamic State

US authorities have indicted a Toronto man who allegedly used Bitcoin cryptocurrency and set up GoFundMe accounts to try to raise more than $20,000 for the terrorist group Islamic State.

A US criminal complaint unsealed in New York describes Khalilullah Yousef as a 34-year-old Canadian citizen and one of four members of an alleged conspiracy to raise funds for terrorists.

Mr Yousef was arrested by police in Canada this week and now faces a US extradition request. The other three suspects are American citizens arrested in the eastern United States and are between 20 and 30 years old.

All are accused of conspiring to provide material support to the Islamic State (IS). US authorities say detectives uncovered the conspiracy by using a confidential informant to spy on an encrypted group chat.

In that discussion, which began in early 2021, participants are said to have talked about raising funds to support the terrorist group – including by setting up crowdfunding sites on behalf of charities.

But the ultimate intention was to help ISIS buy bullets and ammunition, according to an affidavit by US Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Melissa Garcia.

In court documents, she states that more than $25,000 in cryptocurrency funds were funneled by the conspirators to an unnamed Islamic State facilitator who claimed to be part of the group’s “central media organization.”

The FBI says the lion’s share of the donated cryptocurrency funds came from the Canadian suspect. He is accused of sending $20,348 worth of bitcoin in 26 transactions between February 2021 and July 2022.

How Mr. Yousef got the money is not clear. The lawsuit states that he created several GoFundMe pages where he solicited donors to donate money under pretenses, including to “help raise funds for some needy families for Eid.”

The ad says Mr Yousuf came to the attention of US authorities after the arrest of another suspected IS supporter in March 2021. FBI searches of this suspect’s computers revealed “over 1,700 communications” involving Mr. Yousuf, according to the criminal complaint filed with the court.

When Ottawa invoked the emergency law last winter, Treasury Secretary Chrystia Freeland announced that the federal government was taking steps to better scrutinize online money flows.

“We are expanding the scope of Canada’s anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing regulations to cover crowdfunding platforms and the payment processors they use. These changes cover all forms of transactions, including digital assets like cryptocurrencies,” she said at the time.

The federal government gave the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Center of Canada greater powers to investigate large and suspicious transactions.

In a statement, the organization said it could not comment on the new US case. “FinTRAC is prohibited from speaking with any information it may have received or any financial information it may or may not have shared with law enforcement or national security agencies,” spokeswoman Erica Constant said.

GoFundMe said in an email that it fully complies with all applicable rules and regulations: “While we do not comment on pending legal investigations, GoFundMe’s Terms of Service expressly prohibit activities that support terrorism, and it is our policy, along with formal requests from law enforcement,” spokesman Jalen Drummond said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *