Russian Crypto Exchange Moves Money for Gaza Groups, Report
Palestinian militant organizations, including a Hamas-linked Islamist group, have been using a Moscow-based crypto exchange to transfer millions, a press report revealed. The U.S.-sanctioned platform, which allows customers to convert Russian cash to crypto and then withdraw fiat abroad, has been also serving criminal gangs and rich Russians, sources claim.
Russian Exchange Allegedly Transfers Millions in Crypto for Fundamentalists in Gaza
Islamic Jihad, a Palestinian extremist organization active in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, has received part of a $ 93 million payment through a Russian cryptocurrency exchange called Garantex, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported.
The company, originally registered in Estonia but headquartered in Moscow, was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in April 2022 as part of measures to prevent Russian efforts to evade financial restrictions imposed over the invasion of Ukraine.
The crypto trading platform allegedly processed illicit transactions from the ransomware group Conti and darknet market Hydra as well. It was also used to launder money for Russia’s largest crypto pyramid scheme, Finiko, and raise funds for the Russian far-right paramilitary unit Rusich.
Hamas, the Islamist political and military movement which launched a terrorist assault on Israel earlier this month, has employed a similar funding scheme to conceal transactions and circumvent sanctions, according to the sources quoted in the article.
The Garantex exchange offers users the option to purchase cryptocurrency with cash in Russian rubles. The digital coins can later be converted back to fiat money overseas. The WSJ points out that it’s very hard to track and stop these kinds of transfers.
Despite the U.S. sanctions, the crypto exchange, which has offices in the Moscow City business center, remains quite active, the publication noted. In June alone, its trading volume reached $865 million, which is actually higher than the turnover registered before the platform was blacklisted.
The WSJ report does not specify any amount that Hamas might have received through Garantex. It was reported that the Palestinian movement has been also using wallets at the world’s largest crypto exchange, Binance, to collect crypto donations. The Israel Police announced it had frozen such accounts with the help of Binance.
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