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The Spanish civil guard police have arrested 11 suspects and launched an investigation of 137 others dedicated to a major operation on money laundering. The alleged Bitcoin criminal gang was smashed for trafficking drugs and laundering money through the use of virtual currencies.
Bitcoin has become increasingly popular in the recent past as an alternative form of currency. The digital currency provides new options for private, anonymous and secure transactions. Unfortunately, it is now being used also to fuel crimes such as drug trafficking and money laundering.
According to the investigation which is still underway, the alleged criminal organization operated from Spain and Colombia, and has been accused of having laundered more than €8 million through traditional means.
In a joint operation nicknamed “Tulipan Blanca” launched by Europol, the US Department of National Security and the Spanish Civil Guard Police, the law enforcement agencies carried out eight raids in Spain. Significant evidence was gathered including money counting machines, computers, laptops, computer data, and money packing bags.
In the investigation, the police revealed that the well-established network of the gang had deposited a total of €8,369,867 through 174 different but current accounts using credit cards and the buying and selling of virtual currencies. The Spanish criminal gang had been selling controlled illegal substances which would help the gang raise a large amount of money to be laundered.
According to Europol, the said organized criminal gangs based in Spain were in frequent communication with other drug dealers using anonymous messaging apps, who intern would launder money obtained.
“As the money was already circulating in the financial systems, the gang just required to send the criminal cash collected back to the drug lords in Colombia,” a source stated.
The investigation revealed that initially, the criminal gang had acquired credit cards which linked to bank accounts in Colombia. Certain drug kingpins then traveled to Colombia with their credit cards and made several cash withdrawals from the said bank accounts. Thereafter, the criminals realized the risk of being traced so they turned to virtual currencies, bitcoin in particular.
The joint operation and the collaboration with the Finnish law enforcers, helped the police officers locate the bitcoin exchange regularly used by the gang. This was based in Finland and helped in the arrest of several suspects, gathering evidence and more information on the well-networked criminal organization.
The news follows just days after an announcement on Tuesday by the state’s ministry of finance in Taiwan said it will push for the regulations of cryptocurrencies under the same AML rules already covering the traditional financial sector. Quoting on the guidelines issued by Financial Action Task Force, an international non-governmental anti-money laundering organization, the ministry has promised to consult with other financial bodies before reaching a final decision.