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The legitimacy of virtual currency may well have gained so much ground over the last year that Bitcoin exchanges and technology providers have gone from being a fringe industry that plays host to a decentralized, anonymous digital purchasing method with little or no recourse should things go awry, to a fully regulated, alternative payment system with technological infrastructure backed by large venture capital firms.
However despite these tremendous advancements that have set Bitcoin on the road to the mainstream via high quality security measures and technological projects backed by multi-million dollar corporations, there is another aspect that could cause international governments and financial markets regulators to take a dim view: terrorist funding.
Anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist funding procedures are instrumental to the regulatory remit of the vast majority of FX firms, and indeed traditional financial institutions, therefore Bitcoin would be subject to similar stipulations in regions such as Switzerland, whose SBEX virtual currency exchange is regulated by Swiss Bank regulator FINMA, and New York, where the BitLicense provides a regulatory framework to Bitcoin venues.
Yesterday, in Liverpool, England, a very real danger became apparent, having been funded anonymously by using Bitcoin.
Mohammed Ammer Ali was arrested by counter terrorism officers and charged with attempting to obtain the fatal poison ricin.
Mr. Ali was detained by Police following a series of raids in Liverpool which took place last week, and was due to appear in court yesterday morning accused of attempting to obtain a chemical weapon.
The possession and acquisition of ricin is illegal in the United Kingdom, as it is in the vast majority of jurisdictions globally, as it is 6,000 times more deadly than cyanide which has recently been obtained and used by suspected terrorists across the United States.
According to a report by the Daily Telegraph, Mr. Ali attempted to purchase the ricin from overseas via the dark web, using Bitcoins.
Five vials of powder were contained within the battery pack of a radio controlled car, enough to poison over 100 people. A legal source has confirmed that this particular powder was not ricin, instead it was another poisonous substance, however Mr. Ali’s digital currency-funded attempts to acquire the real thing were indeed well underway before being foiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) in the United States and British authorities.
The Telegraph’s report continues to explain that Mr. Ali was charged after attempting to pay $500 for 500 milligrams of ricin.
Prosecuting, Mark Dawson said: “He attempted to buy 500 milligrams of ricin but this was a sting operation by the FBI in cooperation with British authorities.”
Mr Dawson said Ali had to the FBI officers he said he “would become a repeat purchaser.”
Whilst Mr. Ali may well face the music for his attempts to obtain the illegal and deadly substance, this activity calls into question compliance issues which surround Bitcoin, and make a clear point that it is not just the potential hacking of secure wallets and theft of Bitcoins from exchanges, an area which Bitcoin firms have invested heavily in, that is of concern, but also the inability to mitigate the use of Bitcoins for nefarious, and downright dangerous, purposes compared to the relative ease of doing so with fiat currency.