Blockchain-based virtual currencies have the ability to ease financial transactions across borders and make life much easier for people by eliminating third parties when sending or receiving money. However, the sad truth remains that bad actors constantly abuse cryptos, using them to aid their illicit activities like money laundering and purchase of banned products on the dark web. Now, Europol is working with over a dozen exchanges to curb this menace.
According to a Financial Times report, the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol), formerly known as the European Police Office and Drugs Unit, organized a 3-day workshop with all of the major crypto exchanges in a bid to brainstorm over better ways to fight unlawful crypto-related activities in the region. Beginning last Tuesday at the Europol headquarters in Hague, attendees including crypto wallet providers, exchanges, and payment processors gathered to discuss fail-proof ways to thwart sophisticated money laundering operations.
Additionally, regulatory authorities in Europe were present at the event to deliberate on ways to amenably govern the burgeoning digital currency space. Per Financial Times, some of the topics for discussion at the conference include “the abuse of virtual currencies for illegal activities” and best ways to “enhance the capabilities of law enforcement.”
Bitcoin provides less anonymity to bad actors, as it is possible to trace suspicious transactions made with the pioneer crypto. However, there are several altcoins that offer complete anonymity to users. Monero and ZCash are two coins that help bad actors entirely cover their tracks while carrying out unlawful transactions online. Also, there are coin mixers that allow cryptocurrency users to make their transactions untraceable on the blockchain network entirely.
Amidst that backdrop, the Europol conference is meant to tackle the issues of “tracing and attribution” regarding privacy-centric cryptos and formulate methods to strip these coins of the extraordinary anonymity they afford criminals.
Back in February 2018, reports surfaced that the director of Europol, Rob Wainwright, had raised the alarm over the increase in the rate of crypto-related crimes. He reiterated that about four percent of all proceeds of crime are converted into digital monies and pointed out that agencies have limited resources to trace the transactions or even freeze the accounts. In his words:
“They [cryptocurrencies] are not banks and governed by a central authority so the police cannot monitor those transactions. And if they do identify them as criminal they have no way to freeze the assets unlike in the regular banking system.”
Europol Proactively Fighting Crypto Crime
At a time when fraudsters are getting increasingly sophisticated in their dirty deals, the efforts of Europol have been quite commendable so far. On April 11, 2018, BTCManager reported that the agency had busted a dangerous European drug syndicate that tried laundering their ill-gotten wealth via cryptos and credit cards.
“Members of a crime ring laundered money earned by other organized crime groups, who made their money selling drugs, by using credit cards and cryptocurrencies,” Europol stated at the time. The agency continues working to try to be a step ahead of fraudsters in the digital currency space, and the collaborative workshop will undoubtedly yield significant results.