A Europol-coordinated operation has seen 11 arrests and 137 individuals investigated in a drug trafficking case.
“Members of a crime ring laundered money earned by other organised crime groups, who made their money selling drugs, by using credit cards and cryptocurrencies,” Europol said in a statement.
The investigation revealed that the criminals acquired credit cards linked to the bank accounts in which criminal proceeds were deposited. Certain criminals then traveled to Colombia with credit cards and made several cash withdrawals from the bank accounts.
“Once the criminals realized that cash withdrawals and bank operations were easy to track, they changed their laundering methods and turned to cryptocurrencies, mainly Bitcoin (Bitcoin),” the European law-enforcement agency said.
The operation dubbed Tulipan Blanca revealed a a Finland-based cryptocurrency exchange, which the the criminals used the exchange to convert their illicit proceeds into Bitcoins, then change the cryptocurrency into Colombian pesos and deposit it into Colombian bank accounts.
The investigation revealed that the suspects deposited more than EUR 8 million in cash using 174 bank accounts.
Europol has organised specialized training courses to assist law enforcement officers in identifying the use of cryptocurrencies by organised crime networks.
By Jade Olafdon