11 suspects have been arrested in an investigation of a Spanish-Colombian crime ring using crypto to launder illicit funds.
Operation Tulipan Blanca (White Tulip), coordinated by Europol and conducted by the Spanish Guardia Civil, has resulted in the arrest of 11 individuals for laundering more than EUR 8 mln via cryptocurrencies, according to a Europol press release April 9.
According to Europol, the investigation was centered around a crime ring which launders money from narcotics sales using credit cards and cryptocurrencies.
Launderers would pick up the illicit funds in cash, after which they would deposit them in small amounts into hundreds of third bank accounts. Since the cash was already circulating in the financial system, the ring just needed to transfer the illicit funds back to the drug dealers in Colombia. The criminals would then acquire credit cards linked with the accounts, and travel to Colombia where they would make withdrawals.
Once the criminals realized that cash withdrawals and bank operations were easy to track, they used cryptocurrencies instead, mainly Bitcoin. The suspects converted illicit funds to Bitcoin through an exchange, which they then changed to Colombian pesos and deposited into Colombian bank accounts the same day.
Through collaboration with Finnish authorities, police were able to establish that the exchange being used by the criminal ring was located in Finland, and collect the necessary information to track the culprits.
137 individuals are still being investigated by the Guardia Civil. The investigation shows that the suspects deposited over EUR 8 mln into 174 different bank accounts. Europol says it has organized special training “to assist law enforcement officers in identifying the use of cryptocurrencies by organized crime networks.”
Cointelegraph reported earlier today that the US Department of Justice (DoJ) seized backpage.com on charges that it laundered nearly half a billion dollars in illegal revenue, some via cryptocurrencies.