Indonesia's AML Watchdog Links Bitcoin to Islamic State

Islamic State (IS) militants are now using bitcoin, according to reports from authorities in Indonesia.

AccessTimeIconJan 9, 2017 at 1:48 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 11, 2021 at 12:58 p.m. UTC

Indonesian authorities say they have evidence that Islamic State (IS) militants are using online money services such as PayPal and bitcoin to send money to domestic operatives.

Officials with Pusat Pelaporan dan Analisis Transaksi Keuangan (PPATK), an independent agency established in 2002 that enforces the country's anti-money laundering (AML) laws, gave the remarks at a public hearing today centered on the agency's performance in 2016.

There, Ivan Yustiavandana, director for examination and research at PPATK, said he believes the use of bitcoin is linked to the preference these groups have shown for technologically sophisticated payment methods.

As quoted by Singapore-based newspaper, The Straits Times, he said:

"Today we are talking about PayPal, bitcoins. Two to three years from now, we may talk about other means, new ways. The more sophisticated we are at getting them, the more they will try to look for new ways."

PPATK chairman Kiagus Ahmad Badaruddin added that the agency believes terrorists are using the tools because it makes it "harder" for authorities to track the transaction.

Notably, the agency also reported that IS operative Bahrun Naim had been using these means of sending money to IS colleagues. Naim is the man the authorities believe is behind recent attacks in Jakarta in which two civilians were killed and 24 were wounded, according to figures from CNN.

At press time, the statements have also been given additional attention via reporting by The Wall Street Journal.

Terror links

While no data was provided by the agency, the statements are likely to continue the narrative that bitcoin and other blockchain-based digital currencies are becoming an attractive tool for terrorist funding.

Following the November 2015 Paris attacks, for example, the European Union sought to take measures that would enhance the supervision of exchange startups that enable bitcoin to be traded for government-issued money.

However, there is evidence that such claims may be overblown.

The US Treasury Department noted in a risk assessment in 2015 that while the technology may be vulnerable to abuse, it remains unclear how widespread this illicit use of bitcoin has become.

Adding to the perceived prominence of the digital currency, is that bitcoin has emerged as a way for the media to bring added attention to government actions against a broad selection of payment tools given its strong online community and following.

Terrorism image via Shutterstock


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