The European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol) followed the trail of $2.9 million (€2,5 ml) money laundering activity conducted through cryptocurrencies. Europol executed an operation against criminal organizations together with Colombian and Spanish police forces in two different locations, according to the Europol’s press release.
Officers of Europol did the real-time cross-checking of findings equipped with the Universal Forensic Extraction Devices (UFED). These devices are portable and allow fast data extraction as well as analysis over GPS or mobile systems.
A team of Venezuelan, Colombian and Spanish officers, recovered cell phones, computers and cryptocurrency wallets, which were allegedly used in money laundering activities carried out in two methods: smurfing and cryptocurrency exchanges.
In fact, this operation started more than a year ago in a Spanish city of Zaragoza, when a Colombian family dealt with drug trafficking. The drug money came in from a network of criminals in France and Spain, which was later divided into smaller chunks and sent in. This method is called smurfing.
For larger amounts of money, criminal minds found another way of laundering: exchanging them into cryptocurrencies and sending to the crypto-wallets of Colombian organizations.
Why it is important
- Cryptocurrencies and crypto exchanges are increasingly being used by criminal organizations to hide their money trail. 1. Operation shows that authorities are conducting robust anti-money laundering activities by utilizing tech-savvy teams, who are well equipped with all the necessary know-how.
Authorities of many other countries are keeping an eye on crypto related crimes. With cryptocurrencies slowly but steadily adapting into our lives as ordinary phenomena, the amount of such crimes is also on the rise.
As such three years ago in the U.S, FBI launched a virtual-currency initiative and recently announced that has 130 open cases related to cryptocurrencies, while The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Financial Services proposed a bill carrying out a study on how virtual currencies and online marketplaces are used in sex and drugs trafficking. Earlier in May, U.S. and Canadian state security regulators have also initiated dozens of investigations into cryptocurrency scams.
Fighting against money laundering is a continuous task Europol is undertaking, which gets more difficult with the backdrop of a growing number of anonymous decentralized payment systems.