U.S. Senator Cynthia Lummis (R-Wy.) and Rep. French Hill (R-Ark.) have urged the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to "expeditiously conclude" investigations and reach a decision on criminal charges for Binance and Tether concerning possible aid to Hamas.
"On October 10, 2023, the Wall Street Journal reported that Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah have received funding through crypto assets since August 2021, though subsequent reports have highlighted that the level of funding reported in the article is likely not accurate," the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland. "However, we believe it is nonetheless imperative that the Department of Justice hold bad actors accountable if they are shown to facilitate illicit activity."
The request is notable because it comes from two historical advocates for regulation of crypto. Senator Lummis is a member of the influential Senate Banking Committee, has drafted a bill on crypto and continues to press to get crypto legislation through Congress. In August, she also called on a federal court to dismiss a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) lawsuit against crypto exchange Coinbase.
Rep. Hill is the chairman of the Subcommittee on Digital Assets House Financial Services Committee and has occupied a leading role as that congressional panel has been pushing for crypto legislation.
In a blog post on Thursday, Tether pushed back against the reports.
“It is critical to realize that imprecise information not only fosters unwarranted concerns but also paints an unfair and skewed picture of Tether and the industry as a whole,” the company argued. “There is simply no evidence that Tether has violated sanctions laws or the Bank Secrecy Act through inadequate customer due diligence or screening practices.”
The U.S. lawmakers' letter said that while some reports claim Binance is now cooperating with authorities, this is immaterial to criminal culpability, because "Binance is only doing so after knowingly allowing its exchange to be used by terrorist organizations, and only after they have been caught."
Lummis and Hill alleged that it is well-known that Tether knowingly facilitated the violations of sanctions by failing to conduct adequate customer due diligence despite knowing its product is used to facilitate terrorism.
Binance and Tether did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
UPDATE (October 26, 2023, 18:34 UTC): Adds response from Tether.
CoinDesk is an award-winning media outlet that covers the cryptocurrency industry. Its journalists abide by a strict set of editorial policies. In November 2023, CoinDesk was acquired by the Bullish group, owner of Bullish, a regulated, digital assets exchange. The Bullish group is majority-owned by Block.one; both companies have interests in a variety of blockchain and digital asset businesses and significant holdings of digital assets, including bitcoin. CoinDesk operates as an independent subsidiary with an editorial committee to protect journalistic independence. CoinDesk offers all employees above a certain salary threshold, including journalists, stock options in the Bullish group as part of their compensation.