FIRST ON FOX: Top House lawmakers are investigating the breadth and depth of the digital wealth owned by terror groups like Hamas just over a month after the Gaza-based organization’s surprise attack on Israel.
“Reports indicate that Hamas-linked digital wallets received about $41 million and Palestinian Islamic Jihad-linked digital wallets received about $93 million between August 2021 and June 2023. Yet, it remains unclear how much, if any, of the publicly identified digital assets are accessible to or remains in the possession of Hamas,” the lawmakers wrote to President Biden and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.
“According to reports, Hamas shut down its digital asset fundraising campaign in April 2023 citing the ability of government officials to identify and prosecute donors.”
The bipartisan letter is led by House Majority Whip Tom Emmer, R-Minn., Financial Services Committee Chairman Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., Digital Asset subcommittee Chairman French Hill, R-Ark., and Rep. Ritchie Torres, D-N.Y.
“We request the White House and the Treasury to utilize the open blockchain ledger to assess the footprint of Hamas’ digital asset fundraising campaign. In doing this, Congress can better understand the United States’ available tools and capabilities to target bad actors on blockchain and support legitimate digital asset use and innovation,” Emmer told Fox News Digital.
Hamas militants launched a surprise attack in southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people – mostly civilians.
In the wake of the attack, Israeli authorities reportedly seized thousands of dollars of cryptocurrency and other digital assets from accounts accused of fundraising for Hamas. It also froze multiple accounts, according to the Financial Times.
The letter also pointed out that several platforms accused of hosting Hamas’ digital assets are based in countries like Russia and China.
In addition to digital wallets owned by Hamas, however, the lawmakers asked Biden and Yellen to look into the scope of digital assets run by terror groups like Hezbollah and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement.
Their letter is seeking answers on the timeframe of their digital fundraising campaigns, and what – if any – action the U.S. has taken in response, including seizing or blocking the assets.
“Please respond no later than November 29, 2023. If the answers to these questions cannot be provided in an unclassified manner, we request that a classified briefing be scheduled in a timely manner on the matter,” it said.
Traders of cryptocurrency and other digital assets are able to maneuver with relative anonymity, making the sphere a hotbed for illicit financing. It’s also a way to evade traditional sanctions on trade and currency.
The U.S. Treasury sanctioned 10 entities linked to Hamas terrorists last month, including a Gaza-based cryptocurrency platform, in response to the attack on Israel.
“This action targets members managing assets in a secret Hamas investment portfolio, a Qatar-based financial facilitator with close ties to the Iranian regime, a key Hamas commander, and a Gaza-based virtual currency exchange and its operator,” the Treasury’s Oct. 18 press release said.