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Europol Starts Group to Study Cryptocurrency Launderers

Europol Starts Group to Study Cryptocurrency Launderers

The European Union’s law enforcement agency, Europol, announced the establishment of a working group on money laundering with digital currencies. This is a “tripartite partnership” with the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) and the Basel Institute on Governance.

Also read: EU Intellectual Property Office: Bitcoin Hinders Anti-Piracy Efforts

The Aim of the Europol-Interpol Working Group

The working group aims to “gather, analyse, and exchange non-europoloperational information regarding the use of digital currencies as a means of money laundering, and the investigation and recovery of proceeds of crime stored in the same form,” according to the announcement.

The group will also organize annual workshops and meetings to inform people on cryptocurrency laundering.

The three organizations recognize that law enforcement agencies worldwide could benefit from information and knowledge sharing. Concerned about the seriousness of money laundering threats by cryptocurrencies, Europol sated:

“To trace assets transferred, laundered, exchanged or stored through the use of cryptocurrencies poses new and distinctive challenges to investigators and prosecutors, as does the seizure and confiscation of the proceeds of crime in cryptocurrencies.”

In its announcement, Europol admitted that only a small number of money laundering cases involve digital currencies. The agency credited cryptocurrencies with offering “high levels of anonymity and low levels of detection.” Europol did not specifically mention bitcoin in its announcement.

More Money Laundering Threat from Banks

While digital currencies pose some money laundering risk, the Bank of England’s (BoE) research, published in October 2015, says the threat is low. Banks, on the other hand, pose the most threat of facilitating money laundering.

money laundering
Source: Bank of England

The BoE claimed that “There is little evidence to indicate that the use of digital currencies has been incorporated into established money laundering techniques.” In the same report, the Bank wrote, “there is little evidence to indicate that the use of digital currencies has been adopted by criminals involved in terrorist financing, whether as a means by which to raise funds (crowd funding etc.), to pay for infrastructure (e.g. server rental), or to transfer funds.”

Panama Papers Say It All

After the Panama Papers Leak, Mark Branson, the chief panama papersexecutive of the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (Finma) supervisory authority, warned of Swiss banks’ exposure to money laundering.

He also revealed that his organization categorized almost 300 of its banks under the “money-laundering profile.”

In conclusion, Branson disclosed that “We are currently dealing with a number of money laundering cases, and we are not talking about small fry but what looks like blatant and massive corruption.”

What do you think of the Europol’s working group? Let us know in the comments section below.

Images Courtesy of Europol, BBC.

Tags in this story
AML, Europol, INTERPOL, Money Laundering, Panama Papers
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Kevin Helms

A student of Austrian Economics, Kevin found Bitcoin in 2011 and has been an evangelist ever since. His interests lie in Bitcoin security, open-source systems, network effects and the intersection between economics and cryptography.