New Delhi: A five-month-long investigation by the Intelligence Fusion & Strategic Ops (IFSO) unit of Delhi Police’s Special Cell into hacking of a crypto-currency wallet has revealed that Palestinian militant outfit Hamas was behind the crime, sources say. Delhi Police commissioner Rakesh Asthana is likely to communicate the developments to the authorities concerned at home and abroad through theappropriate channels.
According to a confidential investigation report prepared by DCP (IFSO) KPS Malhotra, the cryptocurrencies, whose value as of today stands at Rs 4 crore, were stolen from a west Delhi businessman’s wallet. They were routed through various private wallets before finally landing up with those being used and operated in Gaza by al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas that is globally known for using stolen and donated crypto-currency for terror financing.
The incident was reported in 2019 after a Paschim Vihar-based businessman lodged a complaint with the local police after losing access to his wallet. According to the complaint, the victim owned 6.2 Bitcoin, 9.79 Etherum, 2.44 Bitcoin cash of blockchain mobile wallet on his Oppo F17 mobile device. The approximate value of his currency at that time was around Rs 30.6 lakh, sources said.
The case was transferred to Special Cell for technical investigation. Malhotra then formed a special team comprising ACP Raman Lamba, SI Neeraj and others to track the recipients of the siphoned off money.
The details of his crypto wallet, along with other accounts, were found to have been uploaded on the Darknet. Initial probe using a series of tracer tools revealed that the victim’s device was hacked and currency was transferred into three different accounts without his consent and knowledge.
During the course of investigation, the cryptocurrency trail led police to identify accounts that were maintained by al-Qassam Brigades, apart from wallets seized by Israel’s defense ministry’s National Bureau for Counter Terror Financing. The seizure of the digital wallets linked to Hamas were termed by Israel as the first and most aggressive action against the terror group’s crypto-currency efforts.
“The seized wallet belonged to Mohammad Naseer Ibrahim Abdulla. The other wallets in which a major share of the cryptocurrencies were transferred were being operated from Giza in Egypt. One such wallet belonged to Ahmed Marzooq. Another wallet, in which cryptocurrencies had been transferred, belonged to Ahmed QH Safi from Ramallah in Palestine,” the report filed by IFSO stated.
Some of the stolen currency was also found transferred to a UK-based gambling site and a child pornography site, said sources.
The development comes amid calls of regulation and crackdown on digital wallets, long favoured by cybercriminals for laundering funds gathered via digital crimes. At present, there is currently no law in India that regulates cryptocurrency trading. However, trading of and setting up a cryptocurrency exchange is legal in India.
Cryptocurrency is a form of digital currency that can be termed as a collection of data designed to be anonymous and secure. The virtual currency is designed to work as a medium of exchange using cryptography to secure transactions and to control the creation of additional units of currency. No single entity owns or controls them and it works on a peer-to-peer system. They are comparatively difficult to trace and offer some anonymity online.