Europol helps Spanish government take down crypto money laundering operation

Europol has supported the Spanish government in dismantling a criminal organisation which had been providing ‘large-scale’ crypto money laundering services to other criminal bodies.

The criminals had carried out a number of money laundering schemes involving the transfer from fiat currency to virtual assets in order to hide illegal origins of proceeds.

One of methods used involved crypto ATMs and smurfing, a tactic used to split stolen proceeds into smaller sums and putting these into financial systems to avoid attention being drawn to a high volume of deposit.

Spain’s civil guard, Guardia Civil, have arrested eight people and charged another eight for involvement in the money laundering ring. Seven properties were searched, including a money exchange office and an indoor cannabis cultivation plant.

As a result, the guard seized eleven vehicles, €16,800, nearly 200 cannabis plants, two crypto ATMs, and numerous computers, devices, jewels, and relevant documents. Additionally, it has frozen four ‘cold wallets’ and 20 ‘hot wallets’, which have seen €9m transferred.

The criminals had allegedly been running a cryptocurrency exchange business, which included two crypto ATMs to deposit stolen funds and turn it into cryptocurrency for other criminals.

Another supposed tactic used by the group involved smurfing techniques where multiple members of the group would deposit the stolen funds into several different bank accounts. To further avoid detection, they would move it through various other accounts as well. These funds would eventually be turned into cryptos.

Europol helped the investigation by facilitating the exchange of information with Spain. It also deployed a selection of experts to the country to improve real-time information exchange and cross-checks of data gathered with that on Europol’s database.

Headquartered in the Netherlands, Europol helps the 28 EU Member States with their efforts combatting terrorism, cybercrime and other criminal activity.


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