Cynthia Lummis, a prominent advocate for cryptocurrency and a United States Senator representing Wyoming, has called on the U.S. Justice Department to consider pressing charges against Binance, a leading crypto exchange. Lummis’s request comes in the wake of the terrorist organization Hamas’ recent attack on Israel.
In a letter addressed to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland on October 26, Lummis and Arkansas Representative French Hill urged the Justice Department to make a decision regarding the charges against Binance and swiftly conclude investigations into alleged unlawful activities involving Tether, a stablecoin. They argue that illicit crypto transactions have played a role in providing significant financial support to terrorism, citing the coordinated attack launched by Hamas on October 7.
“We urge the Department of Justice to carefully evaluate the extent to which Binance and Tether are providing material support and resources to support terrorism through violations of applicable sanctions laws and the Bank Secrecy Act,” stated Lummis and Hill. “To that end, we strongly support swift action by the Department of Justice against Binance and Tether to choke off sources of funding to the terrorists currently targeting Israel.”
Lummis, who has positioned herself as a proponent of Bitcoin and supportive of crypto legislation in Congress, and Hill, the chair of the Subcommittee on Digital Assets, Financial Technology and Inclusion, echoed sentiments expressed by Senator Elizabeth Warren and other lawmakers who have linked crypto payments to terrorist activities. However, unlike Warren, Lummis and Hill directed their focus towards “bad actors,” including Binance and Tether.
In the aftermath of the October 7 attacks, Binance froze accounts linked to Hamas following requests from Israeli law enforcement. However, Lummis and Hill criticized this action as insufficient, suggesting that Binance had either allowed terrorist groups to conduct business or turned a blind eye towards their activities. Similar allegations were made against Tether for knowingly facilitating violations of sanctions laws.
“While some reports claim Binance is now cooperating with Israeli law enforcement, this is immaterial to criminal culpability because Binance is only doing so after knowingly allowing its exchange to be used by terrorist organizations, and only after they have been caught,” the lawmakers emphasized.
Notably, blockchain analytics firm Elliptic released a statement on October 25 addressing U.S. lawmakers and the media, asserting that there was no substantial evidence suggesting that Hamas had received significant crypto payments to fund its attacks on Israel. According to Elliptic, a campaign linked to Hamas had raised only $21,000 since the October 7 attack, contrasting with the millions of dollars reported by other media outlets.
It remains to be seen how the U.S. Justice Department will respond to Lummis and Hill’s request to prosecute Binance and investigate Tether’s alleged illicit activities further. The outcome of this case could have significant implications for the regulation and oversight of the crypto industry, as well as its potential vulnerabilities as a platform for illicit financing.
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