Specialist detectives from London’s Metropolitan Police have cracked a huge international money laundering operation, seizing more than $250m (£180m) in cryptocurrency.
The Met’s Economic Crime Command took control of the suspicious digital wallets, capturing a record figure in UK crypto crime stings.
The investigation goes right to the heart of the City (London’s financial centre) where a 39-year old woman has been bailed following her arrest in connection with an earlier cryptocurrency seizure of £114m last month.
Speaking with the BBC, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Graham McNulty – former head of the Serious and Organised Crime unit – said the specialist teams had worked night and day before making their move.
“While cash still remains king in the criminal world, as digital platforms develop we’re increasingly seeing organised criminals using cryptocurrency to launder their dirty money,” he said.
“Detectives on this case have worked tirelessly and meticulously to trace millions of pounds worth of cryptocurrency suspected of being linked to criminality and now being laundered to hide the trail.”
Many analysts suggest the Met’s focus on money laundering through cryptocurrencies has stemmed from the explosion in its popularity over the past year, with Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) reporting that 2.3 million Brits now own cryptocurrency assets.
Jake Moore, a cyber-security specialist at ESET, said the seizure represented a new wave of law enforcement techniques used to infiltrate gangs which have long had the upper hand.
“In what will be a huge blow to criminal gangs behind money laundering, this is an extremely rare outcome,” he said.
“Painstaking intelligence gathering over long periods of time would have taken a tremendous amount of time and resources, which unfortunately is not possible for all cybercrime investigation.
“This highlights that cybercrime doesn’t always pay, and even when the attackers themselves remain anonymous, our law enforcement’s secondary tactic is to fight back with their own version of disruption and cause major headaches for those at large.”
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