As crypto use spreads to every nook and cranny of society, so does its misuse of the system to perform novel crimes and launder illicit funds.
While Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are now being widely used in nefarious activities, the decentralized nature of blockchain technology presents law enforcement with a vital new tool to combat organized crime.
In 2018, criminals moved $8.7 billion worth of cryptocurrencies, a 30% rise from the previous year, according to a report by blockchain data company Chainalysis.
Tuesday marked the conclusion of the two-day 6th Global Conference on Criminal Finances and Cryptocurrencies, which was hosted by Europol at its headquarters in The Hague, the Netherlands.
More than 1,700 registered participants from 119 countries, including digital currency specialists and financial investigators from crime-busting agencies, regulators, and the commercial sector, attended the event.
Image: AML Intelligence
Europol Could Use Some Crypto Info To Fight Crime
According to the speakers, the usage of cryptocurrency is increasing “into nearly every country and industry,” which facilitates the emergence of new types of criminal activity.
The speeches illustrated how “conventional” and “virtual” types of organized crime and money laundering are converging.
Digital currencies are increasingly employed in trade-based money laundering activities, for instance, and are related to a wide variety of illegal operations, such as drug smuggling, sports betting, and proliferation financing, the Europol conference disclosed.
Gary Cathcart, chief of financial investigation at the National Crime Agency (NCA) in the United Kingdom, stated:
“Parts of the Bitcoin infrastructure are being exploited to launder illegal funds, especially from drug trafficking… the escalating threat of ransomware employs bitcoins as a payment mechanism.”
Chainalysis Has Criminals On Its Crosshair As Well
Chainalysis also has its hands full in terms of knowing and understanding how the bad guys operate.
According to Chainalysis, it keeps a close eye on crypto wallets controlled by criminals such as ransomware attackers, scammers, darkweb market operators, human traffickers and terrorist organizations.
Europol, for its part, has analyzed the criminal use of cryptocurrencies in order to support law enforcement and its response to developments in this field.
The resulting study covers fundamental concepts, case studies, and specifics regarding the difficulties authorities confront in countering the illegal usage of these asset types.
Europol also points out that boosting understanding and capability in the digital arena among all parties is crucial for curbing physical and virtual organized crime and money laundering.
In other words, crypto plays a vital role in helping international anti-crime agencies to deter the onset of crime before it happens. As the sages would say, prevention is better than cure.
Meanwhile, new legislation being adopted by the European Union will ensure that crypto assets are subject to the same anti-money laundering regulations and oversight as regular assets.
The Europol is up against criminals who are also stepping up their game as technology – and crypto – advance.
Crypto total market cap at $964 billion on the daily chart | Source: TradingView.com Featured image from TheNextWeb, chart from TradingView.com