Islamic State ‘Global Financial Network’ Discovered on eBay, Feds Alleged Jihadists Used Fake Listing to Fund Terror Attacks
Following an FBI investigation into the online dealings of an American citizen who swore their allegiance to the Islamic State, federal investigators allegedly discovered disturbing evidence of global financial network run by terrorists on the popular auction site eBay.
According to reports, the discovery came as part of a lengthy investigation into the online dealings of American citizen Mohamed Elshinawy. As explained by the Wall Street Journal, Elshinawy was arrested more than a year ago following a surveillance operation which uncovered the first evidence that such a financial network exist.
During the course of the investigation, feds found that Elshinawy had pledged allegiance to the terror organization and allegedly received monetary support from the group’s members through the use of fake listings on the popular auction site for the purpose of funding terror related activities.
The scheme reportedly involved fraudulent listings on electronic items such as computers and printers.
As alleged in the 2016 indictment of the suspect, Elshinawy posted fake listings on the site which were then purchased by Islamic State leaders and funded through money transfer service PayPal.
Under questioning, Elshinawy explained to federal agents that the PayPal transactions would then subsequently include instructions to use the funds for “operational purposes” such as terror attacks against the United States.
The financial network allegedly span globally under the direction now-deceased senior ISIS leader Siful Sujan, of Syria.
The recently unsealed FBI affidavit, filed in federal court in Baltimore, alleges that Mr. Elshinawy was part of a global network stretching from Britain to Bangladesh that used similar schemes to fund Islamic State and was directed by a now-dead senior ISIS figure in Syria, Siful Sujan.
The U.S. has said Mr. Elshinawy told investigators he was instructed to use the money for “operational purposes” in the U.S., such as a possible terror attack. He has pleaded not guilty to supporting the terror group, and currently is in federal custody awaiting trial. His lawyer declined to comment.
The case suggests how Islamic State is trying to exploit holes in the vast online financial world to finance terror outside its borders.
The U.S. and other countries for years since 9/11 have focused on the formal international banking systems that terror networks might use to transfer money to would-be terrorists.
If you have opened a new bank account, applied for a personal loan or attempted to spend a wire funds transfer in the post 9/11 era, you have likely been asked slightly intrusive questions by bank employees regarding the intended purpose of your transactions…
The answers to the those questions were then subsequently logged by your financial institution.
The brief description of the PATRIOT act’s purpose is defined as follows by the U.S. Dept of the Treasury Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).
- To strengthen U.S. measures to prevent, detect and prosecute international money laundering and financing of terrorism;
- To subject to special scrutiny foreign jurisdictions, foreign financial institutions, and classes of international transactions or types of accounts that are susceptible to criminal abuse;
- To require all appropriate elements of the financial services industry to report potential money laundering;
- To strengthen measures to prevent use of the U.S. financial system for personal gain by corrupt foreign officials and facilitate repatriation of stolen assets to the citizens of countries to whom such assets belong.
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But some alleged perpetrators inspired by Islamic State have gotten small sums through low-level fraud such as check scams, or through financial channels where regulators have been paying less attention.
Those include social-media fundraising, student-loan withdrawals and online lending fraud, according to the Financial Action Task Force, an intergovernmental body that makes counterterror [sic] recommendations.
A spokesman for eBay Inc. said the company “has zero tolerance for criminal activities taking place on our marketplace” and said that they are working with law enforcement on the case.
A spokeswoman for PayPal Holdings Inc. said that it “invests significant time and resources in working to prevent terrorist activity on our platform….We proactively report suspicious activities and respond quickly to lawful requests to support law enforcement agencies in their investigations.”
Federal agents discovered during the course of their investigation that Elshinawy had received a total of $8,700 from individuals with known ties to the Islamic State.
The investigation additionally uncovered a fraudulent company on eBay operated ISIS senior leader Sujan. The company used by Sujan as part of the network claimed to “built websites” and “obtained and configured printers.”
Through the financial network, Sujan allegedly spent $18,000 to buy “military-grade surveillance equipment that could be used for aerial targeting” from a Canadian company. The affidavit also states that Sujan was able to purchase “electronic bug-sweeping equipment” from a U.S. business which was then shipped to Turkey.
Five of the payments included in the $8,700 Elshinawy received allegedly came via PayPal from the fraudulent company run by Sujan.
Elshinawy told federal investigators under questioning that he than used the money to purchase “a laptop, a cellphone and a VPN communications network.” Investigating agents state those devices were used to open lines of communication with other Islamic State members.
Elshinawy maintains his innocence and defends that he is only guilty of stealing money from “thieves.”
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