Binance

EXCLUSIVE Islamist attacker’s alleged accomplices used crypto exchange Binance, German police say

EXCLUSIVE Islamist attacker's alleged accomplices used crypto exchange Binance, German police say

The Biance app is seen on a smartphone in this illustration taken July 13, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

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LONDON, Jan 21 (Reuters) – Two men suspected by Germany of helping an Islamist gunman, who killed four people in Vienna in 2020, used top cryptocurrency exchange Binance, federal police said German in a confidential letter requesting information from the company.

Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) said in the March 2021 letter, which was seen by Reuters, that there were indications the suspects had bought or sold an unspecified amount of crypto -currency on Binance.

Prosecutors identified the men as Drilon G., a German national, and Blinor S. from Kosovo. Reuters also withholds their full names.

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Blinor S. used a bank account to make “several” transactions with Binance, the BKA wrote. A Binance verification code from February was found on Drilon G.’s phone, he added.

The BKA did not give details on the dates, number or value of the transactions. He asked Binance to provide data related to the pair, including all digital currency transactions. The request, he said, was related to “plans for potential terrorist attacks”, without providing further details.

Reuters could not determine how Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange by trading volume, responded to the letter.

Binance had no comment. The BKA declined to comment.

Blinor S. and Drilon G., in messages exchanged with Reuters, denied aiding the shooter, Kujtim Fejzulai, and using cryptocurrency to fund his attack or any other attack. Blinor S. said he opened a Binance account in February and only used it to invest in different cryptocurrencies. “I know that every transaction on Binance is traceable,” he said.

Lawyers for the two men said neither had been formally charged with a crime and no arrest warrants had been issued.

Since last year, Binance has been under pressure from financial regulators around the world. Regulators in Europe, the United States and Asia have called for stricter compliance checks on crypto exchanges to prevent money laundering and other illicit uses of digital currencies.

VIENNA ATTACK

On November 2, 2020, Fejzulai, a 20-year-old Austrian who also held North Macedonian nationality, was killed by police minutes after opening fire on crowded bars in Vienna.

Armed with an automatic rifle, a handgun and a machete, he opened fire at six locations near Vienna’s main synagogue. The Islamic State later claimed responsibility for the attack.

In a public statement in July last year, Germany’s federal attorney general said Drilon G. and Blinor S. were suspected of knowing about the attacks in advance and failing to report them to the police . The statement said special forces and BKA officials searched the addresses of the two men in the German cities of Kassel and Osnabrueck.

The prosecutor’s office, calling the men “suspected accomplices in the attack,” did not mention the cryptocurrencies, Binance, or any evidence that they funded Fejzulai. Their lawyers confirmed to Reuters that they were both targets of the BKA’s criminal investigation.

The couple had been in close contact with Fejzulai on social media before the attacks, according to the prosecutors’ statement, and in July 2020 he stayed in his apartment in Vienna for several days with Islamists from Austria and Switzerland. He highlighted their “close personal relationship with the killer and their shared radical Islamic feelings”.

Blinor S. told Reuters there was no evidence for prosecutors’ allegations. Drilon G. said the charges were false and he “had nothing to do with the horrific terror attack”. The prosecutor’s office declined to comment, saying investigations were ongoing.

The prosecutor’s office said DNA from unspecified participants in the Vienna meetings was later found on Fejzulai’s weapons and on an Islamic State ring he was wearing during the attack.

Just before Fejzulai began his assault on the evening of Nov. 2, Blinor S. and Drilon G. deleted communications with Fejzulai on their cellphones and social media profiles, he said.

((Reporting by Tom Wilson and Angus Berwick, additional reporting by John O’Donnell in Frankfurt; editing by Janet McBride))

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