To combat terrorist financing, the US, UK and Australia have imposed a fifth round of sanctions on Hamas, specifically targeting its virtual currency transfer networks. This action, announced on January 22, 2024, marks a concerted effort by these nations to disrupt the financial mechanisms that support terrorist activities, particularly those facilitated by cryptocurrency.
Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Treasury Department at the head this initiative focused on Hamas-linked networks in Gaza, including their owners and associates. These networks have been instrumental in channeling funds, including those from cryptocurrency transfers, from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds (IRGC-QF) to Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in Gaza. This round of sanctions is part of a broader strategy that includes previous joint actions with the UK targeting Hamas leaders and financiers, as well as US actions targeting sources of support and funding for Hamas.
The sanctions specifically target the Shamlakh network, with key individuals such as Gaza-based financial intermediary Zuhair Shamlakh playing an important role. Shamlakh was involved in the transfer of significant funds from Iran to Hamas, using his companies for these transactions. These financial activities have continued since at least 2017, with millions of dollars being transferred to support terrorist groups in Gaza.
UK sanctions are aligned with US sanctions targeting key figures in Hamas and PIJ’s financial networks. British Foreign Secretary David Cameron underlined the message that there is no hiding place for those who fund terrorist activities. The sanctions include an asset freeze and travel ban aimed at disrupting the flow of funding from Iran to these terrorist groups. The UK is committed to working with international partners to tackle Iran’s destabilizing activities in the Middle East, including its support for armed groups.
In addition to the US and the UK, Australia has also joined in imposing sanctions on key Hamas officials and intermediaries. This coordinated international effort reflects a united stance against the financing of terrorism and the use of cryptocurrency for such purposes.
These sanctions are significant as they highlight the growing use of digital currencies by terrorist groups to finance their operations. The underground financial networks created by these groups exploit legitimate businesses to disguise the flow of terrorist financing. By targeting these networks, the US, UK and Australia aim to undermine the financial infrastructure that supports Hamas’ terrorist activities.
The latest sanctions follow earlier ones imposed after Hamas attacked Israel on October 7. This coordinated effort by the US, UK and Australia demonstrates their commitment to disrupting the financial networks of terrorist groups and preventing them from obtaining funding through modern financial mechanisms, including cryptocurrencies.
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