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SHUM - Large bitcoin payments to right-wing activists a month before Capitol riot linked to foreign account

WASHINGTON — On Dec. 8, someone made a simultaneous transfer of 28.15 bitcoins — worth more than $500,000 at the time — to 22 different virtual wallets, most of them belonging to prominent right-wing organizations and personalities.

Now cryptocurrency researchers believe they have identified who made the transfer, and suspect it was intended to bolster those far-right causes. U.S. law enforcement is investigating whether the donations were linked to the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol.

While the motivation is difficult to prove, the transfer came just a month before the violent riot in the Capitol, which took place after President Trump invited supporters to “walk down Pennsylvania Avenue” and “take back our country.”

Right-wing figures and websites, including VDARE, the Daily Stormer and Nick Fuentes, received generous donations from a bitcoin account linked to a French cryptocurrency exchange, according to research done by software company Chainalysis, which maintains a repository of information about public cryptocurrency exchanges and whose tools aid in government, law enforcement and private sector investigations. Chainalysis investigated the donations after Yahoo News shared the data points about the transaction.

According to one source familiar with the matter, the suspicious Dec. 8 transaction, along with a number of other pieces of intelligence, has prompted law enforcement and intelligence agencies in recent days to actively investigate the sources of funding for the individuals who participated in the Capitol insurrection, as well as their networks. The government is hoping to prevent future attacks but also to uncover potential foreign involvement in or support of right-wing activities, the source said.

During a press conference on Tuesday on the investigation into the Capitol riot, acting U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin said the “scope and scale of this investigation in these cases are really unprecedented.” At th...

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