To combat terrorism financing, the U.S., 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.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) spearheaded this initiative, focusing on networks affiliated with Hamas 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-Qods Force (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 U.S. actions targeting sources of Hamas support and financing.
The sanctions specifically target the Shamlakh Network, with key individuals such as Gaza-based financial facilitator Zuhair Shamlakh playing a prominent role. Shamlakh has been involved in transferring substantial funds from Iran to Hamas, utilizing his companies for these transactions. These financial activities have been ongoing since at least 2017, with millions of dollars being transferred to support terrorist groups in Gaza.
The UK’s sanctions are aligned with those of the U.S., targeting key figures in Hamas and PIJ’s financial networks. British Foreign Secretary David Cameron emphasized the message that there is no hiding place for those financing terrorist activities. The sanctions include asset freezes and travel bans, aimed at disrupting the flow of funding from Iran to these terrorist groups. The UK is dedicated to working with international partners to tackle Iran’s destabilizing activities in the Middle East, including its support for militant groups.
In addition to the U.S. and UK, Australia has also joined in imposing sanctions on key Hamas officials and facilitators. This coordinated international effort reflects a unified stance against the financing of terrorism and the exploitation of cryptocurrency for such purposes.
These sanctions are significant as they highlight the increasing use of digital currencies by terrorist groups to fund their operations. The underground financial networks created by these groups exploit legitimate businesses to conceal the flow of terrorist funding. By targeting these networks, the U.S., UK, and Australia aim to undermine the financial infrastructure that supports Hamas’s terrorist activities.
The latest sanctions follow earlier ones imposed after the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel. This coordinated effort by the U.S., UK, and Australia demonstrates their commitment to disrupting the financial networks of terrorist groups and preventing them from accessing funding through modern financial mechanisms, including cryptocurrencies.
Image source: Shutterstock