Europol Disrupts Cryptocurrency
Laundering as a Service Criminal Organization
May 13 2019
has supported Spain in dismantling a criminal organization providing
large-scale crypto money laundering services to other criminal
The criminals carried out several money laundering schemes involving the
transfer from fiat currency to virtual assets to hide the illegal origin
of the proceeds. Some of the identified modi operandi used crypto ATMs
and smurfing, a criminal method used to split illicit proceeds into
smaller sums and placing these small amounts into the financial system
to avoid suspicious transaction reporting.
The Spanish Civil Guard (Guardia
Civil) arrested eight people and charged eight more for involvement in
the crypto money laundering ring.
Seven houses were searched,
including a money exchange office and an indoor cannabis cultivation
Eleven vehicles, €16 800, close to
200 cannabis plants, two crypto ATMs, computers, devices, jewels and
relevant documents were seized.
Spanish authorities froze four ‘cold
wallets’ and 20 ‘hot wallets’, to which €9 million was transferred, as
well as several bank accounts.
Some of the identified modi operandi were:
The organization managed a
cryptocurrency exchange business, including two crypto ATMs to deposit
criminal cash and transform it into cryptocurrency for other criminal
Cash pick-ups carried out by
cash-carriers followed by smurfing techniques to deposit the criminal
cash in several bank accounts controlled by the organization. The funds
were moved through several accounts in the process of layering.
Afterwards, the money was exchanged into Cryptocurrency;
Large transfers to bank accounts
controlled by the organization coming from corporate entities owned by
gangs using their criminal money laundering services. Immediate overseas
transfers were then wired to crypto exchange platforms.
operation was a follow-up of operation Guatuzo also supported by Europol
in which 23 people were arrested in summer 2018 in Spain and Colombia.
Europol supported the investigation by facilitating the exchange of
information. On the action day, Europol experts were deployed to Spain
to allow for real-time exchange of information and cross-checks of the
data gathered in the course of the action against Europol’s databases.
In the European Union Serious and Organized Crime Threat Assessment (SOCTA)
2017, Europol stated that an increasing number of individual criminal
entrepreneurs offer Crime as a Service (CaaS). The online trade in
services enables individual criminals to operate their own criminal
business without the need for the infrastructures maintained by
‘traditional’ organised crime groups.