According to a survey conducted by the media outlet fd.nl, the Dutch Public Prosecutor (OM) is waging a war against criminal traders and exchanges of bitcoin. The Dutch OM is looking forward to at least three BTC money laundering criminal cases in 2017.
Bitcoin trading has always been legal. The cryptocurrency had seen a 28 percent increase from 2015 to 2016, its current price is standing at €980, the highest point ever. BTC is popular in countries with capital restrictions or weakening currencies, such as China. However, bitcoin is also a popular currency among cybercriminals, that’s why the Dutch OM seeks to prosecute money laundering cases.
Criminals choose bitcoin as their currency of choice since it is not connected to any countries, central banks or financial supervisors. This could result in fast and mostly anonymous transactions. According to a Europol investigation, more than 40 percent of online transactions between criminals were paid in bitcoins.
The tax inspection service (FIOD) identified suspects who are accused of bitcoin money laundering. Dutch authorities call them “bitcoin cashers” since they exchange dirty BTC to Euros for an additional charge of payment.
The first case started on February 6. A 24-year-old from Amsterdam and a 27-year-old from Utrecht were charged with drug trafficking, money laundering, and participation in a criminal organization. The prosecution claims that the duo laundered about 2.4 million euros.
In another FIOD case, four Dutch nationals are suspected of running a currency exchange specialized in BTC-Euro transfers. Unlike regular exchanges, the suspects ensured that their customers remain anonymous, and focused on shady clients who allegedly obtained their bitcoins from illegal activities. According to authorities, the suspects made millions of euros from their business. When banks became suspicious in 2015, the group fled to Malta where they continued their operation.
Law enforcement authorities also started an international investigation, codenamed “Iceberg”, against a criminal gang that was using bitcoins. The case is expected to end in 2017 at the Rotterdam District Court.
The FIOD will simplify the prosecution by approving a money laundering indicator on illegal bitcoin trading. This indicator is enough for authorities to start an investigation against a suspect without the need to demonstrate a reasonable suspicion of a crime. A spokesman for the FIOD announced that the approval is expected this year.
According to the FIOD, cybercriminals are constantly looking for more options to hide their illegal activities. The use of bitcoin tumblers and mixers had seen an increase in the past few months. These services hide the digital trail that bitcoin trades make on the internet and could be used to wash dirty BTC to clean ones. According to information from different sources, investigators were not able to trace back a single transaction when criminals used tumblers or mixers to wash their currencies. The FIOD seeks to get bitcoin tumblers and mixers to be recognized as money laundering indicators.