PARIS (AP) — France’s anti-terrorism prosecutor’s office said Saturday that eight people have been charged for their alleged involvement in a complex scheme financing Islamic extremists in Syria through the use of cryptocurrencies.
Two suspects have been handed preliminary charges of financing terrorism and terrorist conspiracy in a judicial investigation opened Saturday. The same preliminary charges have been given to another suspect in a related case.
Five other people who have been charged with financing terrorism will be sent to trial by the end of the year, the statement said.
The prosecutor’s office said French police arrested a total of 30 people around the country in the case. Most were released without charges.
Earlier this week, a statement from the anti-terrorism prosecutor’s office said search warrants are out for the two main figures in the scheme, French jihadis who have likely been in northwestern Syria since 2013 and are suspected of creating “the architecture of this network of terrorism financing.”
The scheme was initially uncovered by a team within the French Economy Ministry that traces fiscal fraud, money laundering and terror financing.
This week’s police operation targeted a financing network that has been active since 2019. It was based mainly on the purchase in France of cryptocurrency coupons, details of which were transferred by secure messaging to jihadis in Syria, who could then retrieve the money through cryptocurrency platforms.
Hundreds of thousands of euros are thought to have been supplied via the network, benefiting members of al-Qaida still hiding out in Syria and also jihadis of the Islamic State group.