Title: U.S. Lawmakers Press for DOJ Action Against Binance and Tether Over Potential Ties to Hamas

Title: U.S. Lawmakers Press for DOJ Action Against Binance and Tether Over Potential Ties to Hamas
Photo by Levi Meir Clancy / Unsplash

In a significant move this week, two prominent U.S. lawmakers have called on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to swiftly conclude its investigations and determine whether to press criminal charges against major cryptocurrency players Binance and Tether. This follows reports suggesting potential financial connections to Hamas, a designated terrorist organization.

Senator Cynthia Lummis (R-Wy.) and Representative French Hill (R-Ark.), both advocates for balanced and reasonable crypto regulation, penned a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, emphasizing the urgency of resolving these investigations. Their concerted effort reflects a growing concern within the government over the misuse of cryptocurrencies in facilitating illicit activities.

The letter references a Wall Street Journal report dated October 10, 2023, which highlighted the use of crypto assets by Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah since August 2021. While subsequent reports have questioned the accuracy of the funding levels stated, the lawmakers insist that it remains crucial for the DOJ to act decisively against any entities found to be aiding illicit activities.

Senator Lummis, a member of the influential Senate Banking Committee, has been a notable figure in pushing for crypto legislation. She has previously drafted a bill addressing cryptocurrencies and continues to advocate for legislative progress in this area. In August 2023, she called on a federal court to dismiss a lawsuit by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) against the crypto exchange Coinbase, showcasing her commitment to fair and just regulation in the crypto space.

Representative Hill, serving as the chairman of the Subcommittee on Digital Assets within the House Financial Services Committee, has played a key role in the congressional push for crypto legislation. His involvement underscores the bipartisan nature of the concern over cryptocurrencies’ role in financing terrorism.

In response to the allegations, Tether released a blog post on Thursday, defending its practices and highlighting the dangers of misinformation. The company stated, “There is simply no evidence that Tether has violated sanctions laws or the Bank Secrecy Act through inadequate customer due diligence or screening practices.” Tether emphasized the need for accurate information and expressed its commitment to compliance and transparency.

The U.S. lawmakers’ letter, however, argued that the question of Binance’s cooperation with authorities is irrelevant to the issue of criminal liability. They assert that Binance’s actions, coming only after its alleged facilitation of terrorism financing had been exposed, do not absolve the company of responsibility. Similarly, Lummis and Hill accuse Tether of knowingly failing to conduct adequate customer due diligence, despite being aware that its products were being used to support terrorism.

As of the writing of this article, neither Binance nor Tether have responded publicly to the lawmakers’ letter or the allegations contained within.

The development is a clear indicator of the mounting pressure on crypto entities to ensure their platforms are not exploited for illicit purposes. It also reflects the broader challenge facing regulators and lawmakers globally as they seek to strike a balance between fostering innovation in the crypto space and preventing its misuse.

This situation is a pivotal moment for the crypto industry, as the outcome of the DOJ’s investigation and any subsequent legal action could set a precedent for how similar cases are handled in the future. It also serves as a reminder to crypto platforms of the importance of implementing robust compliance systems and ensuring transparency in their operations.

As the world watches, the crypto industry finds itself at a crossroads, with its future credibility and viability potentially hanging in the balance. The actions taken by U.S. lawmakers and the DOJ in the coming weeks and months will be crucial in determining the path forward, not just for Binance and Tether, but for the entire cryptocurrency ecosystem.