As cryptocurrency use expands into practically every country and sector, so does its abuse to commit new forms of crime and launder dirty money, said speakers.
Yet with the right tools, capacity and cooperation, the unique characteristics of blockchain-based technologies offer an unprecedented opportunity to investigate organised crime and money laundering networks and to recover stolen funds.
Keeping up as crypto enters the mainstream
The speeches and panels painted a picture of how “traditional” and virtual organised crime and money laundering typologies are merging. Cryptocurrencies are increasingly involved in trade-based money laundering cases, for example, and linked to a broad range of crimes including drug smuggling, sports match fixing and proliferation financing.
Professional money launderers are taking advantage of the ever-growing options provided by crypto assets – from mining to decentralised services – to launder proceeds from both physical and cyber crimes.
But law enforcement, regulators and the private sector are working hard to stay ahead of those who abuse crypto assets to commit crimes and launder money.
Legislation is tightening. New EU regulations, for example, will ensure that crypto assets are treated like any other assets for the purposes of anti-money laundering regulation and supervision.
Multiple successful cases, some laid bare during the conference, illustrate how investigators are taking advantage of the unique characteristics of blockchain-based technologies to “follow the money”. This has allowed them to identify not only scammers and hackers but also more traditional organised crime groups and money laundering networks.
Law enforcement and judicial authorities are increasingly treating virtual assets like any other asset from a legal perspective, easing their seizure, management and eventual transformation into fiat currency.
Private companies are innovating fast to provide the tools and analytical capacity to trace funds laundered across multiple blockchains using different obfuscation techniques.
Increasing understanding and capacity in the crypto sphere among all players – regulators, law enforcement, the private sector – is vital to tackling organised crime and money laundering, both physical and virtual.