As technology advances, the world has to adapt–including the criminal underworld. In recent years, cryptocurrency has come to the fore as a wise investment for many. Last week, Bitcoin was valued at $11,000 a pop. While most are legitimate users of digital currency, drug dealers in England have turned to it as a means to launder cash. According to reports, dope boys are simply using one of over 70 cryptocurrency ATMs at convenience stores throughout London as a quick, convenient means of washing their money.
According to British newspaper The Times:
Cash is fed into unregulated machines that convert it into currencies such as bitcoin that are outside national controls. It can then be moved around the world without checks. Dealers are attracted to the method because cash has become harder to launder, police said.
Detective Inspector Tim Court, of Scotland Yard’s fraud squad, said: “It’s a great opportunity for them to dispose of cash quickly. You can shift it across borders, send it anywhere in the world to buy commodities.”
With these ATMs, people with an established online wallet can instantly turn cash into cryptocurrency. Some of the ATMs allow users to convert as much as £500 at a time, with no identification. These types of transactions are especially attractive to drug dealers who don’t want to be caught with a lot of cash on hand should they be stopped by police or robbed by rivals. Furthermore, some cryptocurrencies are designed to hide transactions, which makes tracking transactions very difficult.
A recent report by chief technology officer of the global security firm McAfee and Europol (the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation) advisor Raj Samani found that “electronic currencies act as the main method of payment for illicit products such as drugs.” Samani elaborated, “There is no doubt that digital currencies facilitate money laundering . . . In addition to virtual currencies [being used] in cybercrime, there appears to be evidence of their use in ‘traditional’ physical crime. For some criminals cash is no longer king.”
He added, “Virtual currencies offer a number of benefits . . . they are reliable, relatively instant and anonymous. Even when privacy issues have been raised with particular currencies, notably bitcoin, the market has responded with extensions to provide greater anonymity.”
The British government is looking to crack down on the use of Bitcoin for money laundering and tax evasion. It is expected that early next year exchange platforms and wallet providers will be required to identify themselves and report any suspicious activity.
Last week, Europol made a huge discovery of illicit money transfers using digital currency. The Times reports:
Last week more than £27 million in illicit money transfers using digital currency was uncovered by Europol. About 90 per cent of 1,719 illegal transactions identified during the campaign were linked to cybercrime, with cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin playing an increasing role in money-laundering schemes, the agency said.