BIRMINGHAM: A British sales consultant who used Bitcoin to help fund the Islamic State terror group in Syria has been jailed for 12 years. Hisham Chaudhary was found guilty in July of being a member of the proscribed organisation after a month-long trial at Birmingham Crown Court.
Jurors also returned guilty verdicts on four counts of disseminating terrorist publications, and two of entering a funding arrangement contrary to anti-terror laws, Birmingham Mail has reported.
Sentencing Chaudhary, of Chestnut Drive, Oabdy, at the same court, Judge Paul Farrer QC told the 28-year-old: “The evidence demonstrates that in late 2016 you travelled to the Middle East for approximately two-and-a-half months.
“In a social media conversation in 2019 you indicated that you had unsuccessfully attempted to get into Syria… in order to lend physical support to the IS cause.
“I conclude that by late 2016 you had become a member of that organisation – as a member you were both trusted and respected.”
The judge added: “There are repeated references within social media conversations to those activities and the extent of your activities is revealed by your Bitcoin trading history.”
The court was told Chaudhary purchased £17,000 worth of Bitcoin in 2018, of which £16,000 was transferred to unidentified sources, and bought and transferred around £35,000 via the cryptocurrency in 2019.
Although Choudhary claimed the payments were part of humanitarian work, the judge told him: “I have no doubt that your real motivation was to assist Islamic State in freeing supporters from detention camps.”
Prosecutor Simon Davis had earlier told the court Chaudhary formed a close alignment to IS and had used the money to fund further terrorism.
He said: “The defendant had a close alignment with IS and was found to have a collection of publications, some featuring Osama Bin Laden – he was very active and prominent. He went to great lengths to source and edit publications and encourage others to post the publication on Archive.org to ensure its longevity on the internet.
“He had close connections to IS media. He received an approach from a ‘sister’ in Idlib, Syria, and a conversation took place about how to send money to Idlib.
“IS fighters were heavily reliant on multiple donations.
Birmingham Mail further reported; “In a conversation about funding Bitcoin, Chaudhary said ‘I’ve been doing this for years and no one has been caught’.
“Money was likely to fund further terrorism – enabling ISIS to continue their activities from Idlib.
“It would have the obvious effect of raising morale of the members of the organisation, perpetuating the life of the organisation and enabling further terrorist activity to take place. Some £40,000 has been used for what the defendant claimed was ‘humanitarian purposes’.
“There was a potential for radicalisation online, this was through Twitter, a Telegram account and Archive.org. Twitter soon removed this from their platform but Archive.org still had publications up online in January 2021 before taking them down.
“The Telegram account was also still up on June 2020 but was taken down in June 2021.”
Nawaz Hussain, defending, said: “His membership of IS was clearly active but this wasn’t someone of prominence. He raised money for charities for Oxfam to do some good, his motivations were to lend a hand to people who are suffering.
“He has an element of a saviour complex – being too intelligent for his own good. He is far removed from physical violence. His driving force was to release a woman from a camp, this was a humanitarian venture, which crossed into criminality.”