Transatlantic crypto money laundering program a sign of the times

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Multinational cryptocurrency smurfing appears to be a growing industry.

A joint effort between Europol, the Spanish Guardia Civil and the Colombian National Police ended a transatlantic money laundering operation and led to 23 arrests, mostly Spanish, Colombian and Venezuelan nationals.

According to Europol, the operation spread worldwide and included networks of money laundering across the Atlantic through cryptocurrency smurfing.

Essentially, the cash proceeds of crimes from across Europe would be funneled to these groups, who would then use the cryptocurrency smurf to anonymously convert the money into bitcoin and other types of cryptocurrency, in which case it would. could be instantly sent anywhere in the world.

Smurfing is the process of using many different people to perform small tasks over a large area to avoid setting off red flags that large transactions would. In this case, it’s about sending many different people to anonymously buy small amounts of cryptocurrency from bitcoin vending machines, newsagents, and exchanges that allow smaller transactions without identification. With enough people doing this in a large enough area, in this case across Europe, it is possible to anonymously convert a large amount of money into crypto.

In this case, the smurfs’ cryptocurrencies were recompiled by the money laundering group in Europe and then sent in large quantities to Colombia.

This is similar to the method used by the “Cobalt” bank robbers to move 1.2 billion euros across Europe. The differences are that the Cobalt Group first converted the money to prepaid debit cards before turning it into crypto, perhaps for more anonymity or because it was a faster way for the Smurfs to dispose. of dangerous funds. Additionally, this time the crypto was being sent across the Atlantic rather than just skipping local borders.

As such, it required a much greater degree of multinational cooperation from law enforcement. In this case, it was only revealed when Colombian authorities learned of the group operating in the Spanish city of Zaragoza.

To note

In recent weeks, the criminal use of cryptocurrencies has garnered a lot of attention and authorities have become increasingly aware of their potential threat.

Much has happened in the past two weeks including these arrests, the creation of the multinational “J5” cryptocurrency money laundering team encompassing Australia, Canada, the Netherlands , the United States and the United Kingdom, and the very first national scan of the United States. darkweb cryptocurrency drug dealers.

Meanwhile, the NSA recently called anonymous cryptocurrencies one of the biggest national security threats the country faces as criminals continue to move away from bitcoin to turn to options. truly anonymous.

It’s easy for cynics to dismiss cryptocurrency as useless and only good for criminals, until you remember that the two are mutually exclusive and global crime is a very, very big industry.

Despite all the shifts to legitimacy, it’s clear that cryptocurrencies are an extremely useful tool for tech-savvy criminals. Bottlenecks where fiat has to be converted to crypto are always the most likely interception points, but these only exist as long as there is a fiat to be converted into crypto.

It’s already easy enough to buy a lot of things with cryptocurrency, and the main problem for criminals is probably not that they can’t spend crypto, especially since most of their customers always pay in fiat.

If and when this changes and is combined with other developments such as decentralized encrypted communications, the situation will change again.

By nature, law enforcement is constantly on the run to catch up with crime – sometimes literally, sometimes technologically and procedurally. But what if the crime takes place somewhere law enforcement simply can’t track?

Disclosure: At the time of writing, the author owns ETH, IOTA, ICX, VET, XLM, BTC, and NANO.

This information should not be construed as an endorsement of the cryptocurrency or any specific provider, service or offer. This is not a trade recommendation. Cryptocurrencies are speculative, complex, and carry significant risk – they are very volatile and sensitive to secondary activity. Performance is unpredictable and past performance is no guarantee of future performance. Be aware of your own situation and get your own advice before relying on this information. You should also verify the nature of any product or service (including its legal status and relevant regulatory requirements) and consult the websites of relevant regulators before making any decisions. Finder, or the author, may have holdings in the cryptocurrencies discussed.

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