WASHINGTON/LONDON, Oct 18 (Reuters) – The United States issued sanctions on Wednesday aimed at disrupting funding for the Hamas militant group after its deadly attack in Israel, singling out people involved in its investment portfolio and a Gaza-based cryptocurrency exchange among other targets.
The sanctions, announced as President Joe Biden visited Israel in a show of support, targeted nine individuals and one entity in Gaza, Sudan, Turkey, Algeria and Qatar, the Treasury Department said in a statement.
The action followed Hamas’ Oct. 7 rampage that killed 1,400 people in Israel. More than 3,000 Palestinians have been killed in retaliatory bombing, Gaza health authorities say.
“The United States is taking swift and decisive action to target Hamas’s financiers and facilitators following its brutal and unconscionable massacre of Israeli civilians, including children,” said Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.
“We will continue to take all steps necessary to deny Hamas terrorists the ability to raise and use funds to carry out atrocities and terrorize the people of Israel,” Yellen added.
The sanctions target six individuals associated with Hamas’ secret investment portfolio, building on the Treasury’s imposition of sanctions in 2022 on officials and companies that manage the international portfolio.
The sanctions included a Gaza-based crypto business, called “Buy Cash Money and Money Transfer Company” (Buy Cash), which provides money transfer and virtual currency exchange services, including the cryptocurrency bitcoin, the Treasury statement said.
The firm has also been used by other terror groups to transfer funds, Treasury said.
Blockchain research firm Elliptic said that crypto wallets controlled by “Buy Cash Money and Money Transfer Company” have received more than $25 million in cryptocurrencies since 2015.
In response to an emailed request for comment, Buy Cash said that it is a “licensed international company”, without giving details on which authority granted its license. The company also said that it “did not receive $25 million in the wallet, but the change in the price of Bitcoin increases the value.”
A crypto wallet belonging to Buy Cash was among a number of crypto wallets seized by Israel’s National Bureau for Counter Terrorist Financing in June 2021, according to the Treasury’s statement.
Earlier on Tuesday, 105 U.S. lawmakers sent a letter to the U.S. Treasury Department and the White House expressing “grave concern” that Hamas and an affiliated group called Palestinian Islamic Jihad were using digital assets to fund their operations and evade U.S. sanctions.
Reporting by Susan Heavey and Doina Chiacu in Washington and Elizabeth Howcroft in London; editing by Doina Chiacu, Rod Nickel and Deepa Babington
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