Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance

About the Center:

The Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ (FDD) Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance (CSIF) expands upon FDD’s success as a leading think tank on the use of financial and economic measures in national security. The Center’s purpose is to provide policy and subject matter expertise in areas of illicit finance, financial power, and economic pressure to the global policy community.

The Center is led by Mark Dubowitz, Juan Zarate, Chip Poncy, and Jonathan Schanzer.

CSIF seeks to illuminate the critical intersection between the full range of illicit finance activities and national security, including money laundering, terrorist financing, sanctions evasion, proliferation financing, cyber crime and economic espionage, and corruption and kleptocracy. This includes understanding how America can best use and preserve its financial and economic power to promote its interests and the integrity of the financial system. The Center also examines how America’s adversaries may be leveraging economic tools and power.

CSIF’s core goals are as follows:

  1. Promoting greater understanding of illicit financing and economic threats, vulnerabilities, and warfare, especially as they evolve and threaten U.S. interests;
  2. Designing creative and effective strategies, doctrines, and uses of financial and economic power to attack and protect against priority threats and vulnerabilities; and
  3. Catalyzing global action, in both the public and private sectors, to advance security and address core challenges to effective implementation of financial power.

CSIF achieves these goals by:

  1. Researching, analyzing, and developing products to identify priority illicit financing and economic vulnerabilities and counter-illicit financing challenges;
  2. Devising strategies, policies, and options to isolate specific rogue targets, networks, and regimes;
  3. Creating plans and options to address emerging economic vulnerabilities; and
  4. Sponsoring events and interacting with communities of interest to promote effective implementation and action.

CSIF focuses on global illicit finance, including the financing of terrorism, weapons and nuclear proliferation, corruption, and environmental crime. It has a particular emphasis on Iran, Qatar, Turkey, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Russia, and other autocratic states as well as drug cartels and terrorist groups including the Islamic State, al-Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah.

The Center relies on regional and sanctions expertise within FDD including a core cadre of financial, economic, and area experts and analysts. CSIF is guided by a senior, expert Board of Advisors, that provides strategic guidance, leads initiatives, and assists in outreach. It also relies on key partnerships and expert service providers and engages a range of stakeholders to amplify the depth and reach of its work.

CSIF works to expand the understanding of illicit finance threats to America’s national security and the nature of economic warfare in the 21st century in order to develop further the strategies of American financial suasion.

To Evade U.S. Sanctions, Venezuela Launches the World’s First National Cryptocurrency

23rd February 2018 – FDD's Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance Policy Brief

To Evade U.S. Sanctions, Venezuela Launches the World’s First National Cryptocurrency

Yaya J. Fanusie, Michaela Frai

This week, the Venezuelan government started selling the “petro,” the world’s first “national cryptocurrency.” The petro’s release is part of the Maduro regime’s strategy to combat the “financial blockade” of U.S. sanctions, yet the petro is likely to find itself just as vulnerable as other financial instruments to U.S. sanctions and market-based disincentives. more...

Analysis & Commentary

12th January 2018 – FDD’s Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance Research Memo

Bitcoin Laundering: An Analysis of Illicit Flows into Digital Currency Services

Bitcoin Laundering: An Analysis of Illicit Flows into Digital Currency Services

Yaya J. Fanusie

Bitcoin gambling sites, “mixers” and European Bitcoin exchange may be the destinations of choice for criminals looking to launder bitcoins, according to a study issued today by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ (FDD) Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance (CSIF) and cryptocurrency analytics firm Elliptic. more...

21st December 2017 – The Cipher Brief

Terrorist Networks Eye Bitcoin as Cryptocurrency’s Price Rises

Yaya J. Fanusie

Although paper money remains the preference of terrorist organizations, some are setting their sights on cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin transactions move directly between users without any government or banking intermediary and bring the potential for greater financial efficiency and wider financial inclusion. more...

6th December 2017 – Quoted by Kyra Gurney - The Miami Herald

In Washington, Venezuela’s plan to create a ‘Bitcoin’ seen as a sign of desperation

Yaya J. Fanusie

Venezuela’s announcement that it plans to launch a national crypto-currency to evade U.S. sanctions has been met with skepticism in Washington, where lawmakers see the proposal as a sign of the regime’s increasing desperation. more...

6th December 2017 – Quoted by Javier E. David - CNBC

Al Qaeda’s arm in N. Africa has made around $100 million through ransom and drug trading, study says

Yaya J. Fanusie, Alex Entz

An affiliate of al-Qaeda that has executed several attacks across Africa — and is considered the organization's wealthiest branch — is sitting on millions of dollars in ill-gotten gains that help fund its deadly activities across the region, a new report said. more...