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Europol has supported Spain in dismantling a criminal organisation
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
- Seven houses were searched, including a money exchange office and an indoor cannabis cultivation plant.
- 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 organisation managed a cryptocurrency exchange business,
including two crypto ATMs to deposit criminal cash and transform it into
cryptocurrency for other criminal groups;
- Cash pick-ups carried out by cash-carriers followed by smurfing
techniques to deposit the criminal cash in several bank accounts
controlled by the organisation. The funds were moved through several
accounts in the process of layering. Afterwards, the money was exchanged
- Large transfers to bank accounts controlled by the organisation
coming from corporate entities owned by gangs using their criminal money
laundering services. Immediate overseas transfers were then wired to
crypto exchange platforms.
The operation was a follow-up of operation Guatuzo also supported by
Europol in which 23 people were arrested in summer 2018 in Spain and
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 Organised 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.
source & image: Europol