WASHINGTON – The Islamic terrorist group that claimed responsibility for the devastating attacks in Paris last week is actively promoting the use of virtual currencies as a funding device, but such currencies are not more vulnerable to terrorist financing than other means, according to the head of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.
"There has been public reporting of connections of ISIL promoting the use of bitcoin and virtual currencies as a means of moving and raising funds, but I think we are also very focused on the traditional means of moving funds so I think we need to keep our focus on both areas," Jennifer Shasky Calvery told reporters Monday at an anti-money laundering conference sponsored by the American Bankers Association and the American Bar Association. "We know they are very adept at social media and technology generally, so it is not a surprise that they might be interested in using emerging payment technologies as well."
Still, Calvery said virtual currency does not pose a greater threat of terrorist financing than more traditional laundering activities. "I wouldn't say that it is higher risk," she said.
According to multiple reports, a group of hackers known as Ghost Security Group claim that ISIS (which the U.S. government calls ISIL) had access to a virtual wallet with $3 million worth of bitcoin.
Calvery said that the Bank Secrecy Act database "has been useful in understanding ISIL and foreign terrorist fighters" and that Fincen was leveraging an information technology system over the weekend to help track the terrorist group's financing.
"We had the IT system up and running," she said. "We are able to share information quite easily."