First on Fox: Top House lawmakers are investigating the breadth and depth of the digital wealth held by terrorist groups like Hamas just over a month after the Gaza-based organization’s surprise attack on Israel.
“Reports indicate that digital wallets associated with Hamas received approximately $41 million, and digital wallets associated with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement received approximately $93 million between August 2021 and June 2023. However, it remains unclear how much digital assets are publicly identified, If any,” the lawmakers wrote to President Biden and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen that it could be accessed or remain in Hamas’ possession.
“According to reports, Hamas shut down its digital asset fundraising campaign in April 2023, citing government officials’ ability to identify and prosecute donors.”
The bipartisan letter is led by Tom Emmer, R-Minn., Financial Services Committee Chairman Patrick McHenry, R-Digital Assets Subcommittee Chairman, French Hill, R-Arkansas, and Rep. Ritchie Torres, D-N.Y. .
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“We are asking the White House and the Treasury Department to use an open blockchain registry to evaluate the impact of Hamas’ digital asset fundraising campaign. By doing so, Congress can better understand the tools and capabilities available to the United States to target bad actors on the blockchain and,” Emmer told Fox News Digital. “We support the legitimate use of digital assets and innovation.”
Hamas militants launched a surprise attack in southern Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 people – most of them civilians.
Following the attack, Israeli authorities reportedly confiscated thousands of dollars in cryptocurrencies and other digital assets from accounts accused of raising money for Hamas. It also froze multiple accounts, according to the Financial Times.
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The letter also noted that many of the platforms accused of hosting Hamas’ digital assets are based in countries such as Russia and China.
In addition to digital wallets owned by Hamas, lawmakers asked Biden and Yellen to consider the scope of digital assets managed by terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement.
Their letter seeks answers about the time frame of their digital fundraising campaigns, and what, if any, actions the US has taken in response, including seizing or blocking assets.
“Please respond no later than November 29, 2023. If answers to these questions cannot be provided in an unconfidential manner, we request that a timely confidential briefing be scheduled on this matter,” the statement read.
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Traders of cryptocurrencies and other digital assets can maneuver with relative anonymity, making the field a hotbed of illicit financing. It is also a way to evade traditional sanctions on trade and currency.
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The US Treasury imposed sanctions on 10 entities linked to Hamas terrorists last month, including a Gaza-based cryptocurrency platform, in response to the attack on Israel.
“This action targets members who manage assets in a secret Hamas investment portfolio, a Qatar-based financial facilitator with close ties to the Iranian regime, a key Hamas leader, and a Gaza-based virtual currency exchange and its operator,” the Treasury Department’s October report said. 18 press release said.