Europol Arrests 11 In Bitcoin Money Laundering Case

Crime, News | April 11, 2018 By:

European law enforcement agency Europol has taken down an alleged criminal organization dedicated to money laundering from drug trafficking through the use of cryptocurrencies.

According to Europol, they had arrested 11 individuals and identified 137 suspects potentially involved in a criminal network. The criminal network operated from Spain and Colombia and is accused of laundering more than €8 million ($9.9M USD), utilizing cryptocurrencies and credit cards.

Europol’s operation has been named Tulipan Blanca and was carried out by Spain’s Guardia Civil, Finnish law enforcement authorities, and the investigative arm of the US Department of Homeland Security.

“As a result of the operation, the Spanish Guardia Civil carried out eight searches and seized several computers, devices, and the equipment used to commit the crimes, such as money bags or money counting machines,” Europol said. “The criminals based in Spain were contacted by drug traffickers to launder money obtained from their illegal activities. They picked up the illicit proceeds in cash, which were then split into small quantities to be deposited into hundreds of third bank accounts. The investigation shows that the suspects deposited more than EUR 8 million in cash using 174 bank accounts.”

Europol claimed the alleged criminals used bitcoin to launder money because of its increased difficulty in terms of tracking funds. Through collaboration with Finnish authorities, police were able to establish that the exchange being used by the criminals was located in Finland, and were able to collect all the information it needed.

“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 on the same day,” the agency said.

Europol said it plans to strengthen its efforts to police criminal activities carried out with cryptocurrencies.

“With cryptocurrencies increasingly used to finance and carry out criminal activities, Europol will continue to coordinate across EU member states and beyond, to effectively respond to this rising threat,” the agency said. “Europol has organized specialized training courses to assist law enforcement officers in identifying the use of cryptocurrencies by organized crime networks.”