Spanish law enforcement authorities have successfully dismantled a network allegedly involved in financing the terrorist organization ISIS through cryptocurrency transactions.
This operation, which culminated in the arrest of five individuals over the weekend, represents a significant breakthrough in the fight against terror financing.
Spain’s global effort in ISIS crypto funding case
Spanish police, as part of a two-and-a-half-year investigation, apprehended the suspects in various locations across the country. Two arrests were made in Valencia, with one each in Cáceres, Alicante, and Guipúzcoa. Following their arrests, four of the suspects have been remanded in custody by court order.
This operation, known as “MIYA,” is the second phase of an initiative launched in 2021 by Spain’s National Police General Information Commissariat (CGI). It involved collaboration from intelligence and security services in twelve countries, demonstrating the global effort to combat terrorist financing.
These countries included Morocco’s Surveillance du Territoire (DGST), Algeria’s Direction Générale de la Sécurité Intérieure (DGSI), Mauritania’s Direction Générale de la Sûreté Nationale (DGSN), the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Swiss FEDPOL, and EUROPOL.
Within Spain, the CGI worked closely with its Provincial Information Brigades in Valencia, Alicante, Cáceres, and San Sebastián, as well as the National Intelligence Center (CNI). The Central Court of Instruction number 6 and the Prosecutor’s Office of the National Court coordinated the investigation.
Previous phase and international network
The initial phase of the operation, conducted after a year and a half of investigation, revealed a person of Maghreb origin residing in Spain who was in contact with a jihadist seeking to carry out an attack in France on behalf of ISIS.
The Spanish individual offered their collaboration to the radical extremists, leading to the subsequent arrest of both individuals in March 2022, along with six others across Europe and the Maghreb.
The detainees from the initial phase were part of an international network supporting ISIS, spanning continents including Afghanistan, the Middle East, Sahel, Maghreb, and Europe.
This network allegedly obtained funds through criminal activities in Europe to finance their terrorist operations using cryptocurrency. Authorities managed to seize nearly 200,000 euros worth of digital assets linked to this network.
Arrests and foiled attacks
The recent arrests in Spain conclude the investigation, resulting in the apprehension of five individuals. One of the suspects had exhibited signs of radicalization in recent months and expressed a desire to carry out an attack.
During a search of the individual’s residence, authorities discovered concerning items, including handgun ammunition, an ax, manuals for making explosives, manuals for indoctrinating minors, and jihadist propaganda.
While cryptocurrency provides a degree of anonymity, its use in funding terrorist activities raises concerns globally. This operation underscores the importance of international cooperation and vigilance in tracking and preventing illicit financial activities conducted through digital currencies.