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

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LONDON :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 did not say when they froze the addresses. 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,” without giving further details. A stablecoin is a cryptocurrency type 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 company did not answer Reuters’ detailed questions on its statement. 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 per cent 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 per cent 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.

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