A series of mysterious high-value Bitcoin donations made last month to several right-wing extremist groups and prominent leaders may have been used to help fund last week’s violent siege of the U.S. Capitol, Yahoo News reported Thursday.
The transfer, which took place less than one month before the riots, involved the simultaneous distribution of 28.15 bitcoins — valued at more than $500,000 — from a now-deceased French donor to 22 distinct virtual wallets, many of which cryptocurrency researchers linked to far-right causes. U.S. law enforcement authorities are investigating the transactions to determine if they may be linked to the insurrectionist activity at the capitol.
The bulk of the investigation was completed by Chainalysis, a blockchain analysis company that provides data and analysis to government agencies, exchanges, and financial institutions, after Yahoo provided data points about the aforementioned transactions.
“Right-wing figures and websites, including VDARE, the Daily Stormer and Nick Fuentes, received generous donations from a bitcoin account linked to a French cryptocurrency exchange, according to research done by software company Chainalysis, which maintains a repository of information about public cryptocurrency exchanges and whose tools aid in government, law enforcement and private sector investigations,” stated the report from Yahoo News national security reporter Jenna McLaughlin. “According to one source familiar with the matter, the suspicious Dec. 8 transaction, along with a number of other pieces of intelligence, has prompted law enforcement and intelligence agencies in recent days to actively investigate the sources of funding for the individuals who participated in the Capitol insurrection, as well as their networks. The government is hoping to prevent future attacks but also to uncover potential foreign involvement in or support of right-wing activities, the source said.”
Per Chainalysis, Fuentes—a virulently anti-immigration activist who has previously promised to bring about a “tidal wave of white identity”—was the largest beneficiary of the donations, taking in approximately $250,000. Other recipients included Patrick Casey, the leader of white nationalist group Identity Evropa/American Identity Movement, who received approximately $25,000, and neo-Nazi and Holocaust denier Vincent Reynouard.
Other far right figures who received Bitcoin in the donation include Patrick Casey, Vincent Reynouard, and Ethan Ralph, as well as platforms and websites like the Daily Stormer, VDARE, and Gab. https://t.co/LznOztFphH pic.twitter.com/tgTjbvVlnQ
— Chainalysis (@chainalysis) January 14, 2021
As PayPal and other crowdfunding sites are taking steps to de-platform extremist groups and prevent them from raising money, those groups have instead turned to bitcoin’s semi-anonymous exchange as their preferred method of fundraising.
“I’d be stunned if both nation-state adversaries and terrorist organizations weren’t figuring out how to funnel money to these guys,” said a former FBI official who reviewed the data for Yahoo News. “Many of them use fundraising sites (often in Bitcoin) that are virtually unmonitored and unmonitorable. If they weren’t doing it, they’d be incompetent.”
While Chainalysis believes it identified the person behind the donations—a French computer programmer—the company has not revealed the person’s identity, believing he committed suicide the day after the donations were sent.
“Searching for information on the email address led us to a personal blog we believe belongs to the extremist donor, and which identifies him as a French computer programmer. The blog had been inactive since 2014 until a new post was published on December 9, 2020 — the day after the donations were made. Shockingly, the post appears to be a suicide note,” the company wrote in a blog post on Thursday.
The post included a screenshot of the alleged suicide note, which states: “If you’re reading this, I am deceased. This is a scheduled message made to be published in the future; thus there is no chance that I survived.”
He also reiterates several far-right talking points and mentions that he has “bequeathed [his] fortune to certain causes and certain people.”
[image via Win McNamee/Getty Images]
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