Far Right Groups Get Bitcoin Windfall Weeks Before Capitol Riot
(Bloomberg) -- Far-right groups and personalities received a windfall last month and evidence “strongly suggests” it came from a now-deceased computer programmer based in France, according to the researcher Chainalysis Inc.
On Dec. 8, the donor sent 28.15 Bitcoins, worth about $522,000 at the time of transfer, to 22 separate addresses in a single transaction, according to Chainalysis, whose clients include law-enforcement agencies. Web personality Nick Fuentes, who the Anti-Defamation League describes as a white supremacist, received the largest portion -- about $250,000 -- -- and other recipients included the anti-immigration organization VDare and “alt-right streamer” Ethan Ralph, the researchers said.
The French programmer appears to be Laurent Bachelier, according to online records.
Ralph, who hosts a political podcast in which he denounced the Capitol attack, confirmed that he received about “half a Bitcoin” on Dec. 8, but still doesn’t know exactly who sent it to him. He said he’d never received donations from that wallet before and immediately sold his share of the contribution.
“I definitely don’t support domestic terrorism,” Ralph said in an interview. He rejected the “alt right” label, saying instead that he’s a right-wing conservative.
Fuentes didn’t return messages seeking comment. VDare.com Editor Peter Brimelow didn’t address the donation but he said he didn’t participate in the Jan. 6 protests, other than writing about it.
The entities’ normally anonymous encrypted Bitcoin addresses were public, making it relatively easy to trace the payments over the online ledger known as a blockchain that includes all the peer-to-peer transactions, Chainalysis said.
U.S. law enforcement is investigating whether the donations were linked to the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol, according to Yahoo! News, which previously reported the donations.
While there is nothing to suggest Bachelier’s contributions were illegal, regulators around the world have expressed concern about cryptocurrencies being used to finance terrorism, money laundering and other illicit activities, including Treasury Secretary-nominee Janet Yellen at her confirmation hearing on Tuesday. Last week, European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde said Bitcoin had been enabling “funny business.”
Fuentes was among those who protested in Washington on Jan. 6, but according to his Twitter page, he didn’t enter the Capitol building as many others did. Five people died in the upheaval, including a rioter who was shot by police and a Capitol Hill police officer after an altercation with intruders.
Bachelier, who posted an apparent suicide note online on Dec. 9, said he has suffered from eight years of health problems, leaving him “a prisoner of my body which seems to be three times my age.”
“What happens after I die interests me,” he wrote. “This is why I decided to bequeath my modest fortune to certain causes and certain people.” He doesn’t name the recipients. Bachelier said it was clear to him that “Western civilization is declining” and that the consequences of the Industrial Revolution were “disastrous for humanity.” He also complained of “an unequaled violation of freedoms in the face of a virus less dangerous than the flu season.”
Attempts to reach Bachelier’s family were unsuccessful. His former employer, a French online genealogy company called Geneanet.org, confirmed that Bachelier was employee and that he had died but didn’t provide further details.
Fabien Bachelier told the Wall Street Journal that his brother had committed suicide and that the family was in mourning.
Bachelier has had a cryptocurrency wallet since 2013, and was likely an early adopter of Bitcoin, Chainalysis said.
The programmer had made much smaller donations to some of the same organizations in the past, Chainalysis told Bloomberg. In August of last year, he donated $500 to Gab, $125 to Ruqqus and $1,600 to Fuentes. He also made two small donations in June 2020.
Gab and Ruqqus didn’t respond to emails seeking comment.
“This multirecipient donation made December 2020 the single biggest month we’ve ever observed in terms of cryptocurrency received by addresses associated with domestic extremism,” according to Chainalysis.
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