A senior Islamic State leader used eBay to funnel money to operatives living in Britain and the United States, according to a newly unsealed FBI affidavit.
Cardiff-based Siful Sujan - a high-ranking Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) official whose tech company was at the centre of the multi-national operation - sent funds to the individuals using fake transactions on the online marketplace.
One of the alleged recipients named in the indictment is Mohamed Elshinawy, who is accused of pretending to sell computer printers in order to receive money from Sujan and other Isil figures.
Elshinawy received a total of $8,700 (£6,700) from individuals associated with the terror group, according to the affidavit, including five payments through PayPal from Sujan’s company.
The 30-something American citizen used the funds to buy a laptop, a mobile phone, and a VPN to communicate with Sujan, who is thought to have left the UK for Syria some time in 2014 and was killed in a drone strike in 2015.
Sujan, who was of Bangladeshi descent, was a leading figure in the militants’ hacking campaign and their efforts to defeat surveillance and tracking by Western spy agencies.
The 31-year-old became one of the group’s most-valued tech experts when he replaced another leading Isil hacker from Britain, Junaid Hussain, who was also killed in a air strike.
Elshinawy was arrested in Maryland more than a year ago following a detailed FBI investigation and is now in federal custody awaiting trial, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing the 2016 indictment.
He admitted to investigators that he was told to use the funds for terror attacks in the US, but claimed he never planned to carry one out.
During their investigations, the FBI discovered Eshinawy was part of a global Isil network that operated from the UK to Bangladesh.
Other alleged operatives have reportedly been arrested in the two countries, however their names have not been made public.
Some of the key players in the alleged network, which also bought military-grade surveillance equipment that could be used for aerial targeting, were arrested or killed in a coordinated global sweep in December 2015.
A spokesman for eBay said the company has “zero tolerance for criminal activity on our marketplace and we worked with law enforcement to bring this individual to justice.”
The number of operatives thought to have been involved makes it one of the most significant suspected Isil financial networks yet uncovered.
Governments have for years focused efforts to cut off terrorist cash flows on the formal financial sector, but the new revelation has drawn attention to the ways illicit networks may be circumventing conventional financial institutions to send resources to would-be terrorists.