Terrorist Financing in the Maldives: Crypto Front and Centre
Yes, you read that right. Terrorist financing in the Maldives. Using cryptocurrency. For those who aren’t steeped in terrorist financing, this will come as a surprise. But the Maldives have had a growing terrorism problem for a number of years, so it’s no real surprise that a hub of financing activity has grown there. (The networks identified have also been involved in propaganda production and dissemination). Let’s dig in and see what’s happening in this island paradise when it comes to terrorist financing.
Last week, the United States imposed sanctions on 20 people for financially supporting ISIL and Al Qaeda in the Maldives. These designations also include people accused of supporting ISIL-Khorosan Province.
The designation focused on the Addu City cell in the Maldives that has attempted to conduct terrorist attacks since 2018 and the ISILS-affiliated criminal gang Kuda Henveyru, which has attempted to fundraise for Maldivian ISIL foreign terrorist fighters in Syria. The designation includes a number of individuals and their companies, many of which can be found in the Maldives’ rather excellent corporate registry. A number of these individuals and companies have other associated individuals and corporations not included in the sanctions that can be explored through the business registry.
Some of the funds raised were sent to ISIL in Indonesia, as well as Turkey.
One of the individuals sanctioned, Ali Shafiu, controls a crypto address on the TRON blockchain. Here’s an interesting excerpt from a Chainanalysis report:
TRM Labs found on-chain transactions from Shafiu’s address to addresses that they have associated with the media units of ISIL-KP and ISIL in Pakistan.
The question many of you might have is why crypto? The Maldives has a rather bustling cryptocurrency sector. Some resorts there even accept cryptocurrency as payment. For terrorists operating in small countries, cryptocurrency might hold even more appeal than other methods of moving money, since they can avoid interacting with compliance staff or having their transactions caught up in geographic targeting and monitoring. And as the United Nations reported back in July, ISIL is increasingly using cryptocurrency for international funds transfers.
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