By a Biometrica staffer
A two-day global online virtual assets conference — co-organized by INTERPOL, Europol, and the Basel Institute on Governance — concluded with a call to action on better protecting the world’s financial systems by increasing multi-sector cooperation to strengthen cryptocurrency crime investigations.
Discussions at the conference highlighted the fast-evolving fields of decentralized finance and non-fungible tokens (NFTs), regulatory developments affecting anti-money laundering compliance, crypto-enabled fraud and the possibilities that governments have to recover illicit assets even if they are virtual.
With blockchain, bitcoin and other virtual currencies permitting swift, anonymous financial transfers to anywhere in the world, delegates focused on developing law enforcement tools, skillsets, knowledge and resources to prevent such technologies being used to launder illegally gained assets, a Europol statement said.
“Cryptocurrencies are changing the landscape of the criminal underworld, and we need to work together to prevent virtual assets from becoming safe havens for illegal financial transactions,” Ilana de Wild, INTERPOL’s Director of Organized and Emerging Crime said in that statement.
Just last week, Biometrica examined one aspect of money laundering: money mules. In that piece we established that money muling is more complex than the average financial crime. Unlike other crimes where individuals get involved in illegal activities knowing what they’re about to do is wrong, regular people can be unknowingly recruited into a criminal operation via money muling.
Victims of money muling scams are often solicited online by criminals, making it another aspect of the recent spike in cyber attacks and scams that the world has been dealing with.
However, on the other hand, cryptocurrencies can also prove to be a valuable tool for law enforcement and for promoting transparency in finance globally. Digital tokens can be used by regulators, investigators, banks and even nonbank financial institutions (NBFIs) like casinos, or in other words, by anyone who like having an immutable audit trail. Cryptocurrencies were not made for the “bad guys,” but like any other tool, whether good or bad depends on the intentions of the user who wields it.
The 5th Global Conference on Criminal Finances and Cryptocurrencies, hosted virtually betwen Dec. 7-8, brought together over 3,000 people from law enforcement, public and private sectors, policy institutions and academia from 130 countries under a virtual roof to explore trends, strategies and tactics in tackling crimes involving virtual assets.
Day two of the conference was restricted to law enforcement circles and saw speakers sharing their experiences in national and regional cryptocurrency investigations, demonstrating new methodologies for exploring criminal flows and operations in dark markets and decentralized money laundering scams. The fundamental importance of a clear, harmonized regulatory global framework to prevent money laundering was also emphasized.
The conferences closed with the endorsement of a set of recommendations to strengthen skillsets, improve knowledge, boost expertise and encourage best practices for improved illegal assets investigations. The annual event is organized by the Working Group on Criminal Finances and Cryptocurrencies, a tripartite initiative of the Basel Institute on Governance, INTERPOL and Europol established in 2016.