OFAC Sanctions Several ISIS and Al-Qaeda Operatives in Maldives, Highlights Crypto Address Controlled by SDN Ali Shafiu

On July 31, 2023, the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) sanctioned several individuals and entities associated with the Maldives operations of terrorist groups Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and ISIS-Khorasan (ISIS-K). One of those sanctioned individuals, Ali Shafiu, controls a cryptocurrency address on the TRON blockchain that was included as an identifier on Shafiu’s Special Designated National (SDN) list entry. Below, we’ll tell you more about Shafiu and examine his crypto activity to date. 

Who is Ali Shafiu?

Ali Shafiu is a Maldives national associated primarily with ISIS-K and its terrorism and recruiting activity in the Maldives. Shafiu is connected to notorious ISIS-K recruiter Mohamad Ameen, who was himself designated by OFAC in 2019, and was selected by Ameen to be the Maldivian representative to ISIS-K leadership in Afghanistan. Shafiu is known to have worked in ISIS-K’s media office. OFAC also notes that Shafiu owns or controls one Maldivian business, Panda Maldives Pvt Ltd, and co-owns another, Al Athmaar, alongside ISIS-K recruiter Hussain Shamil, who was also designated today. A recent news article notes that Shafiu was arrested in Afghanistan in 2019 for his support of ISIS-K, but was freed in 2021 soon after the Taliban took control of the country.

Analyzing Ali Shafiu’s cryptocurrency transaction history

Ali Shafiu’s OFAC SDN list entry includes one TRON cryptocurrency address that has been used exclusively to send and receive USDT on TRON (USDT_TRX). That address is TVacWx7F5wgMgn49L5frDf9KLgdYy8nPHL. The address appears to belong to a personal wallet.

Shafiu’s wallet received roughly $18,000 in USDT_TRX, virtually all from mainstream exchanges, between February and May 2022. Virtually all of those funds were moved to a mainstream exchange soon after being received. The exchange deposit addresses to which Shafiu sent funds have also received funds from other notable sources, including two large Iranian exchanges, Nobitex and Wallex.

It’s difficult to know the purposes of Shafiu’s cryptocurrency transactions or how they relate to ISIS-K’s operations at this time.

Another blow struck against crypto-based terrorism financing

Today’s OFAC designations represent another positive step in the fight against cryptocurrency-based terrorism financing, and is a promising continuation of the momentum we’ve seen with recent updates like Hamas’ abandonment of crypto donations and Israel’s successful seizure of crypto from Hezbollah. We’ll continue to monitor for updates on Ali Shafiu and ISIS-K, and share more news on crypto-based terrorism financing when possible.

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