Tether freezes crypto linked to ‘terrorism and warfare’ in Israel and Ukraine

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LONDON, Oct 16 (Reuters) – Cryptocurrency issuer Tether has frozen 32 crypto wallet addresses containing a combined $873,118 it said were linked to “terrorism and warfare” in Israel and Ukraine, the company said on Monday. Israeli police said last week they had frozen crypto accounts used to solicit donations for Hamas on social media. Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel killed 1,300 people. Tether’s first Israel-related freeze was on March 16, 2023, while the first Ukrainian-related freeze was on June 16, 2021, a Tether spokesperson told Reuters via email. TRM Labs, a major U.S. blockchain analysis company that works with law enforcement agencies, said in a blog in February that Tether was a “currency of choice” for terrorist financing. Tether said that it is committed to “working closely” with law enforcement agencies globally “to combat cryptocurrency-funded terrorism and warfare.” Crypto operates mostly outside of the traditional financial system and wallet addresses are pseudonymous, which makes those behind transactions difficult to track. Tether, whose stablecoin is the third-largest cryptocurrency by circulation, said it was working with Israel’s National Bureau for Counter Terror Financing (NBCTF) “to counter cryptocurrency-funded terrorism and warfare”. The Tether spokesperson declined to give any details about this work. A stablecoin is a type of cryptocurrency usually underpinned by assets such as dollars to hold steady value. Tether did not provide details of the owners of the wallet addresses or the nature of their activity. It did not provide a breakdown of the split between Ukraine-related and Israel-related addresses. The NBCTF, which has previously seized crypto accounts it said were linked to militant groups including Hamas, did not respond to a request for comment. Crypto has been widely used in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion last year, with Kyiv raising over $100 million in crypto after appealing for donations. Pro-Russian groups have used crypto for funding in eastern Ukraine, blockchain researcher Chainalysis said last year. TRM said in February there was a 240% increase in the use of Tether last year among the terrorist-financing entities it tracks, with some using the stablecoin exclusively. That increase compared to a rise of almost 80% for bitcoin, the world’s biggest crypto token. Firms such as TRM gather information on the owners of crypto wallets via techniques such as open-source investigations and collaboration with law enforcement. Tether’s popularity was due to bitcoin’s volatility as well as Tether’s lower transaction fees, TRM added. Tether did not respond to a request for comment on the TRM blog. Read Next World at Workcategory LinkedIn lays off 668 employees in second cut this year October 16, 2023 Disruptedcategory China’s Baidu unveils new Ernie AI version to rival GPT-4 5:40 AM UTC Technologycategory U.S. lawmaker seeks answers from Meta, X, Google, TikTok over Israel-Hamas false content 9:04 AM UTC ETFscategory Cryptoverse: Winter is coming as ether funds flounder in fall 11:49 AM UTC Reporting by Elizabeth Howcroft and Tom Wilson; Editing by Mark Potter, Rod Nickel and Louise Heavens Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles. Acquire Licensing Rights, opens new tab Elizabeth Howcroft Thomson Reuters Reports on the intersection of finance and technology, including cryptocurrencies, NFTs, virtual worlds and the money driving “Web3”. Tom Wilson Thomson Reuters Tom covers crypto companies, regulation and markets from London, focusing through 2022 on the Binance crypto exchange. He has worked at Reuters since 2014, with a previous posting to Tokyo where he uncovered abuses in Japan’s immigration system and won a joint Overseas Press Club award for reporting on the tobacco giant Philip Morris.

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