In a major operation on Tuesday, French police arrested 29 people suspected of funding Islamist extremists in Syria using cryptocurrency.
- As reported by ABC News on Wednesday, the operation was an attempt to crack a complex scheme of terrorist funding said to have been masterminded by two French extremists who have been residing in northwestern Syria and have still not been apprehended.
- The 29 people arrested across France for questioning are suspected of funding terrorist activities as part of an elaborate financing network.
- Two of the 29 are suspected of being key in the cyber-financing system and for providing logistical aid to keep the network – active since last year – running.
- The network was discovered by Tracfin, a French economy ministry that tracks fiscal fraud, terror financing and money laundering.
- Hundreds of thousands of euros are suspected to have been supplied through the network benefiting members of al-Qaida and the Islamic State group still holding out in the region.
- According to ABC's report, the network members in France purchased cryptocurrency coupons and transferred the details by secure messaging to jihadis in Syria.
- The French prosecutor's office detailed that a score of people in France would regularly buy the coupons worth between €10 to €150 euros (US$11 to $165), which were credited to accounts opened by jihadis abroad and then cashed out on an exchange platform.
- France initiated its investigation in January when Tracfin detected the Syrian network.