Investigating crimes linked to Cryptocurrencies focus of working group meeting

On 15 and 16 January 2018, more than 60 financial investigators, lawyers, regulators and other specialists in anti-money laundering, cybercrime and financial intelligence took part in an expert workshop on Cryptocurrencies and Money Laundering jointly organized by the Basel Institute on Governance, Europol and INTERPOL in Basel, Switzerland.

The workshop is the fourth of a series of annual such gatherings hosted by the Working Group on Digital Currencies established in September 2016 by the co-organisers in order to gather and analyse information on the use of digital currencies by criminals and to develop strategies for the investigation and recovery of digital criminal proceeds

A series of case presentations allowed to tease out successes and challenges in relation to the investigation of money laundering through cryptocurrencies and other forms of criminal misuse of those new payment methods. Mixing such insights into law enforcement practice with inputs provided by non-law enforcement participants, for example Citibank’s presentation on their work in the field of blockchain technologies and its approaches to tracing transactions, made for a varied and inspiring discussion. Day 2 of the workshop saw the first delivery of a new training module developed by the Basel Institute to help investigators and other interested specialists analyse blockchains, follow transactions through virtual currency, address exchanges based in foreign jurisdictions, and identify and seize cryptocurrency.  

At the end of the workshop as series of conclusions were endorsed, including:

  1. Countries should increase information sharing through INTERPOL, Europol, the Egmont Group and FIU channels;
  2. Training opportunities for regulators, prosecutors, judges, FIU experts, investigators and other relevant partners should be offered by the three co-organisers and other external sources;
  3. Cryptocurrencies Exchangers and Wallet Providers should be regulated under existing Anti Money Laundering and Counter Terrorism Financing Legislation;
  4. Action must be taken against services such as Mixers or Tumblers which are exclusively designed to anonymise transactions and make it impossible for law enforcement to detect and trace suspicious transactions; and
  5. Consider the creation of the offence of illicit enrichment to support money laundering investigations, convictions and confiscations.

The three host organisations will continue fostering good practices and expert exchanges in order to contribute to global efforts to prevent the misuse of blockchain technology and virtual currency by criminals, and financial crime in particular. The Basel Institute’s contribution to these efforts will include the development of additional and advanced training modules for financial investigators, financial institutions and other interested stakeholders along the lines of similar those regularly delivered by the training team of the Basel Institute’s International Centre for Asset Recovery (ICAR) (https://forum.assetrecovery.org/training/overview) or on the ICAR e-learning campus (https://forum.assetrecovery.org/elearning/courses).