Earlier this month, the New York Times reported that the military wing of Hamas, a terrorist group in the Gaza Strip, has been actively raising funds through Bitcoin. The wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, have purportedly created a donation website that gives visitors a unique Bitcoin wallet address where BTC can be sent, which is presumably a lot more secret than traditional digital payment systems.
Other terrorist groups and entities deemed criminal by much of the world have also purportedly been raising funds through cryptocurrencies, trying to leverage these decentralized, immutable, uncensorable, semi-private, and borderless digital assets.
But, there are a growing number of companies looking to stem this form of terrorist financing. And one of these firms has just been on the receiving end of a large multi-million dollar cash injection from massive companies — a bank included.
All Aboard the Crypto Analytics Train
According to a CNBC report, Elliptic, a London-based cryptocurrency analytics firm, has just completed a massive funding round. Partnered with Bitcoin exchanges like Binance and Circle, Elliptic purportedly managed to raise $23 million in a round led by Japan’s SBI Holdings, joining Spanish bank Santander and other as an investor. The funds from SBI, a financial services firm that has dabbled in XRP and other cryptocurrencies, will purportedly be used to fuel Elliptic’s expansion into the Asian region.
The firm offers a blockchain analytics solution that allows it to pin and track suspicious transactions on open chains, giving clients (often exchanges) the ability to shut down any criminal accounts. As Elliptic CEO James Smith explains:
“Because we are always on top of what’s about to happen, we can see when [suspicious] funds start to move to exchanges. We were able to let our customers know that these funds were heading towards them, and they were able to stop them.”
Elliptic reported on Hamas’s use of Bitcoin prior to the New York Times, revealing in April that the group was receiving thousands from their cryptocurrency donation scheme, which was really a way to circumvent the banking system there.
The funding round that the company just bagged comes at literally a perfect time — if you’re a regulator anyway.
Speaking to an Australian news outlet, Neil Walsh, the head of the Cybercrime and Anti-Money-Laundering branch of the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime, explained that cryptocurrencies add another layer to the “nightmare” that is crime. Walsh claims that the fight against cybercriminals, child exploiters, nuclear weapon proliferation, terrorist financing, and money laundering is being hampered by the propagation of cryptocurrencies. Walsh stated that to counteract bad actors using cryptocurrency, all platforms that deal in digital asset services should be regulated.
Walsh’s comment came in the wake of similar ones made by the Trump administration.
Mike Pompeo, the incumbent Secretary of State, stated earlier this year that cryptocurrencies pose a security threat or “risk” to America and its allies, citing 9/11 to get his point across:
“We know this from 9/11 and terror activity that took place in the 15 years preceding that where we didn’t have good tracking, we didn’t have the capacity to understand money flows and who was moving money.”
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin echoed this in another interview, joking that Bitcoin is the 21st-century iteration of a Swiss bank account.
Even Christine Lagarde, the likely future head of the European Central Bank, has purportedly jumped on the crypto regulation bandwagon, recently being cited by CoinTelegraph as saying that cryptocurrencies can only hurt financial stability, privacy, and criminal activities.
It is clear regulation is on its way, and Elliptic might just be part of the solution.