Interpol, Europol and the Basel Institute on Governance this week jointly held the Global Conference on Money Laundering and Digital Currencies in Doha, Qatar.
The three-day event, which ended yesterday, saw hundreds of representatives from police forces and private enterprises from all over the world come together to examine the risks associated with cryptocurrencies, and debate what law enforcement agencies can do to address the crimes they facilitate.
A key focus of the event was how organised criminals and terrorists are able to use virtual currencies such as Bitcoin to launder to proceeds of their illegal activity.
The event was the product of a partnership formed last year between Interpol, Europol and the Basel Institute. The working group was set up to gather information about digital currencies and money laundering, organise events such as this week’s conference for law enforcement agencies involved in fighting this type of crime, and share best practice among members of the group and its external partners.
Tim Morris, Interpol’s Executive Director of Police Services, said: “Digital currencies are not constrained by national regulations or borders, therefore cooperation in fighting against criminal uses of digital currencies must also transcend borders and integrate solutions from both law enforcement and the private sector.”
Addressing the event, Simon Riondet, Head of Financial Intelligence at Europol, said: “Digital currencies are now undoubtedly part of the payment system. Their use is expected to increase exponentially in the coming years.
“And understandably so, since they improve payment efficiency, reduce transaction and fund transfer costs, while facilitating international remittances. But the other side of this narrative is that they are also a powerful new tool for criminals and terrorist financiers to convert, remit and conceal illicit funds from law enforcement authorities.”
When the conference came to a close, participants agreed to increase information sharing on cryptocurrencies and money laundering, regulate digital currency exchangers under current anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing legislation, and take action against digital currency mixers/tumblers, which are designed to anonymise transactions.
The event took place after Europol last month helped police in Italy break up one of the most active counterfeit euro-dealing gangs in Europe. The group, which sold fake euro notes for around a third of their face value on dark web marketplaces in exchange for payment in Bitcoins, was said to have banked over €160,000 in the cryptocurrency when its members were caught. The gang was said to have sold its Bitcoins to a specialist exchanger in Malta.
In its 2016 Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment (IOCTA), which was released last September, Europol revealed that Bitcoin remains the currency of choice for people looking to buy illegal products and services on dark web marketplaces. The report also revealed the currency is increasingly favoured by criminals who extort money from their victims online, such as ransomware scammers.