U.S. gets ammunition against crypto as Hamas link is revealed
- Congress is set to delve deeper into how cryptocurrency might have played a part in the Israel attacks.
- Cryptocurrency firms are proactively attempting to address this issue by improving compliance and due diligence.
The cryptocurrency industry is finding itself under increased scrutiny and political pressure as reports link digital currencies to funding for Hamas and other militant groups, alongside the ongoing fraud trial of former crypto magnate Sam Bankman-Fried.
A major turning point in the intensifying spotlight on crypto was the recent massacre in Israel. Reports suggested that groups, including Hamas, received financing through digital currencies. The very association of cryptocurrencies with terrorism financing has put the industry in the crosshairs of scrutiny.
Digital assets under more pressure than before
The U.S. Congress is gearing up to conduct a more in-depth examination of cryptocurrency’s roles, particularly in relation to the Israel attacks.
Senator Sherrod Brown, Chair of the Senate Banking Committee and a notable cryptocurrency critic, is determined to scrutinize the role of crypto. He has previously expressed concerns about its potential for enabling illicit activities.
The alleged Hamas connection has breathed new life into Senator Elizabeth Warren’s efforts to pass a bill imposing anti-money laundering rules on the crypto industry.
The legislation has been gaining support across party lines. Warren emphasized,
“There’s a growing bipartisan coalition of senators who are committed to passing this bill and fighting back against terrorism worldwide by choking off the financing.”
According to blockchain intelligence firm TRM Labs, Hamas was one of the early adopters of cryptocurrencies for financing. The group mainly relies on other funding sources. However, entities linked to Hamas have continued to seek crypto donations even after the recent attacks.
A report by the Wall Street Journal revealed that digital wallets associated with Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad have received up to $134 million in cryptocurrency since 2021.
Senator Warren shared the WSJ’s findings with her fellow senators, urging them to support her anti-money laundering bill.
In light of these recent developments, Warren’s bill has the potential to gain more support. The bill seeks to extend financial crime regulations, which currently apply to traditional financial institutions, to digital asset players.
Crypto advocates hope to defend their turf
In defense, cryptocurrency advocates emphasize that the technology provides transparency since transactions are often recorded in public ledgers. Law enforcement agencies have also developed means to track transactions.
However, digital currencies are still considered a potential tool for criminals. Their ability to facilitate cross-border and anonymous transactions is too convenient.
Cryptocurrency firms, including major exchanges like Coinbase, are proactively attempting to address this issue by improving compliance and due diligence efforts. They are hoping to prevent any further negative associations between their industry and illegal activities.
Senator Roger Marshall, the leading Republican on Warren’s bill, highlighted the urgency to address crypto’s role in terrorism financing. He stated,
“The abuse of crypto by terrorist organizations should serve as a wake-up call to Congress to crack down on digital assets and money laundering that we now know is helping bankroll the horrific massacres in Israel.”
As Senator Jim Himes pointed out, the industry must articulate its purpose clearly. The negative associations with criminal elements, he noted, have made members of Congress hesitant to provide the industry with the benefit of the doubt.