Far-right cryptocurrency follows ideology across borders

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BRUSSELS (AP) – The Daily Stormer website defends the white race, publishes hateful and conspiratorial screeds against blacks, Jews and women and has helped inspire at least three racially motivated murders. It also made its founder, Andrew Anglin, a millionaire.

Anglin has appealed to a global network of supporters to receive at least 112 Bitcoins since January 2017 – worth $ 4.8 million at today’s exchange rate – according to data shared with The Associated Press . He’s probably even higher.

Anglin and other provocateurs of the radical right have raised millions around the world through cryptocurrencies. Banned by traditional financial institutions, they have sought refuge in digital currencies, which they use in increasingly sophisticated ways to bypass oversight of banks, regulators and courts, finds AP analysis of legal documents, channels Telegram and blockchain data from Chainalysis, a cryptocurrency analysis company.

Anglin owes over $ 18 million in legal judgments in the United States to people he and his supporters harassed and threatened. His victims cannot find him, and for now his Bitcoin fortune remains out of reach.

Beth Littrell, a lawyer with the Southern Poverty Law Center who helps represent one of Anglin’s victims, says it has become increasingly difficult to use the legal system to root out hate groups whose networks and money are virtual. “The law evolves but lags behind evil. ”

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is part of a collaboration between The Associated Press and the PBS FRONTLINE series that examines the challenges facing the ideas and institutions of traditional American and European democracy.

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Chainalysis collected data for a sample of 12 far-right entities in the United States and Europe that have publicly called for Bitcoin donations and have shown significant activity. Together, they recovered 213 Bitcoin – worth over $ 9 million today – between January 2017 and April 2021.

Andrew “Weev” Auernheimer, Anglin’s webmaster for the Daily Stormer, has raked in Bitcoins worth $ 2.2 million at today’s values. The Nordic resistance movement, a Scandinavian neo-Nazi movement banned in Finland, Counter-Currents, a white nationalist publishing house based in the United States, and the recently banned French group Génération Identitaire each received Bitcoin which is now worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to data from Chainalysis.

“Do you really think the way we run our economy matters to you? Martin Saxlind, editor of NRM magazine, Nordfront, asked AP in an email. “Swedish banks have abused their control over the economy to deny us and others regular bank accounts for political reasons. This is why we use cryptocurrency.

Former Anglin lawyer Marc Randazza argued that political censorship by financial authorities drives people underground. “It’s more Nazi than Andrew Anglin could ever hope to be,” he said. “Don’t create a black market and be surprised there is a black market.”

Despite cryptocurrency’s reputation for secrecy, Bitcoin was designed for transparency. Every transaction is indelibly – and publicly – recorded on the blockchain, allowing companies like Chainalysis to monitor activity. Individuals can hide their identity by not publicly linking them to their cryptocurrency accounts, but with Bitcoin they cannot hide the transactions themselves.

Due to this public imprint, in November 2020, Anglin asked his supporters to send him money only in Monero, a “privacy coin,” designed to boost anonymity by hiding data about users and users. transactions.

Monero, Anglin advised supporters in February 2021, “is really easy. Most importantly, it is safe.

Others have come to the same conclusion. The list of people who are now looking for donations in Monero rather than Bitcoin include Thomas Sewell, a neo-Nazi from Australia; Jaz Searby, who ran an Australian section of the Proud Boys; the Global Minority Initiative, a “prison relief charity” for white American nationalists; and France’s Démocratie Participative, a racist website banned by French courts in 2018.

Just as radical right-wing ideologies – whether white nationalists, neo-Nazis, or self-proclaimed “free speech” advocates – are globalizing, so too is funding. Blockchain data shows Anglin’s donors are part of a global community of believers. Since 2017, its donors have also donated Bitcoin to 32 other far-right groups and individuals in at least five different countries, according to data from Chainalysis.

Chainalysis also found that the money given to the sample of 12 far-right entities came from global cryptocurrency exchanges, with an increasing role for exchanges focused on Western and Eastern Europe.

Kimberly Grauer, research director at Chainalysis, said the move to global trade “could certainly be for the purpose of obscuring detection, but it could also be a sign that more and more donations are coming in from around the world.”

In December 2020, shortly before his suicide, a French computer scientist named Laurent Bachelier sent 28.15 Bitcoins – then worth over $ 520,000 – to 22 far-right entities. Most of it went to Nick Fuentes, a white American nationalist influencer who would spend the next few weeks encouraging tens of thousands of followers to besiege the United States Capitol. A bitcoin went to a Daily Stormer account.

The Money Trail shows that domestic extremism is not purely domestic and highlights the ease with which cryptocurrency can fund extremists around the world.

Bachelier’s money passed through accounts that were not hosted by regulated cryptocurrency exchanges, according to Chainalysis. The transactions only became public because of a tip given to a Yahoo reporter and Bachelier left digital traces that led to his email.

Cryptocurrency exchanges, which can convert Bitcoin to US dollars and other currencies, are generally regulated like banks, allowing authorities to access information or funds.

But cryptocurrency wallets can also be “unhosted,” meaning the users themselves control access. Unhosted wallets – like Fuentes’s – are akin to cash. They don’t need to go through banks or stock exchanges that might report suspicious transactions, verify a user’s identity, or hand over money to satisfy a court ruling.

Anglin’s wallets are also not hosted, according to Chainalysis.

“The problem with an unhosted wallet is what’s your problem? Said Amanda Wick, who served as a senior policy advisor for the Treasury Department’s Financial Crime Network and federal prosecutor before joining Chainalysis as chief legal officer. “The only thing we have is civil contempt or criminal conviction. If someone is willing to stay in jail and the money is theirs on the other side because no one can access it, that’s a problem.

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Contact the AP Global Investigation Team at [email protected]

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