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French police arrest terror financing ring that used Bitcoin coupons

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A large goup of accomplaces allegedly financing a jihadist network in Syria have been arrested after a sting operation by French police — despite choosing cryptocurrency coupons in an attempt to cover their tracks.

In a statement, police said that “constant surveillance of these networks prompted terrorist organisations to seek more opacity by using cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin,” as reported on Sept. 30.

Since 2019, the 29 accomplices have allegedly been supporting the operations of an  Al-Qaeda affiliate terror organization, called “Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham.” 

The network’s architects are reportedly two French jihadists in their mid-20s, who are both thought to be in northeastern Syria at present. Both were sentenced to 10 years in prison in absentia in 2016.

The 29 members of the network were busted after being caught purchasing cryptocurrency coupons worth between 10 and 150 euros each ($12–$176) on multiple occasions in recent months from tobacco outlets across France.

These outlets, known in French as tabacs, were last year integrated into crypto coupon services to encourage the adoption of cryptocurrencies by the French public.

Today’s report on the financing of Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham notes that there are currently around 24,000 licensed tabacs across the country. 

Alongside the coupons the defendants allegedly used to credit their Syrian accomplices’ Bitcoin (BTC) accounts, these tabacs support a range of small payments services like cashcard top-ups and money coupons. These services, notably, don’t require proof-of-identity.

The anti-terror prosecutors’ office has claimed that the use of cryptocurrency coupons by the network represents a turn away from the more prevalent choice of cash to support nefarious activities.

As Cointelegraph previously reported, a range of militant groups, most of which are defined as terrorist organizations by some countries, have increasingly turned to cryptocurrencies to support their fundraising activities. Most of these organizations are financially isolated, with many global banks barring services to them using illicit terror financing prevention mechanisms.



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London Stock Exchange-listed firm inks FCA’s approval for crypto services

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Mode Global Holdings, a London Stock Exchange-listed fintech group, has secured major regulatory approvals for cryptocurrency and fintech operations in the United Kingdom.

The company announced Thursday that Mode has secured its Electronic Money Institution license and AMLD5 registration from the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority.

The AMLD5 registration has been granted to Mode’s crypto arm Fibermode Limited, establishing it as an official crypto asset firm in the United Kingdom, pursuant to the amended regulations on money laundering, terrorist financing and transfer of funds.

The AMLD5 registration is a requirement for crypto-related businesses in the country that fall within the scope of money laundering regulations. According to the announcement, Mode is the fifth company to have received this registration to date since the FCA became the official AML supervisor of the crypto industry in the U.K. in January 2020.

Alongside the AMLD5, Mode’s subsidiary Greyfoxx Limited also acquired the EMI license, which enables Mode to offer a “range of innovative financial services” to both businesses and consumers in the United Kingdom, the announcement notes.

Following the acquisition of new regulatory approvals, Mode is planning to further expand its crypto services, including decommissioning its investment product known as the “Bitcoin Jar.” The product aims to allow Mode customers to use Bitcoin (BTC) to generate BTC interest rather than simply holding it in a wallet or on an exchange.

Mode CEO Ryan Moore noted that the new regulatory developments provide a major step in Mode’s mission to deliver a trusted and regulated environment. “It means we now have the ability to scale our operations and continue delivering innovative payments products for our customers under our own EMI licence. Both the EMI licence and the AMLD5 registration ensure business transparency, strong oversight and give our customers confidence in our offering,” he said.

Related: UK regulator warns against 111 unregistered crypto companies… and FOMO

The latest news comes shortly after a member of the British Parliament pointed out major difficulties in the process of registering crypto firms under the FCA’s AML regulations in late May. Economic secretary John Glen elaborated that FCA was not able to process and register all applications by its previous deadline due to a significant number of firms failing to adopt robust AML control frameworks as well as employ proper staff.