03 May 2018
Spanish police have arrested 11 individuals suspected of being part of a criminal network that laundered millions for drug dealers using cryptocurrencies, credit cards and over a hundred bank accounts.
The Spanish-based group was approached by drug dealers to help them launder their illicit cash, authorities say.
The gang then collected the cash, split it into small quantities before depositing it into hundreds of bank accounts, a process known as ‘smurfing.’
Once in the financial system, the network needed to transfer the criminal proceeds back to the drug dealers in Columbia.
To do so, they obtained credit cards linked to the bank accounts where the cash was deposited and then travelled to Colombia with credit cards, from where several cash withdrawals were made from the accounts.
“Once the criminals realised that cash withdrawals and bank operations were easy to track, they changed their laundering methods and turned to cryptocurrencies, mainly bitcoin,” said Europol, which supported the investigation by facilitating the exchange of information.
The criminals then used an exchange in Finland to convert their illicit proceeds into bitcoins.
After this, they changed the cryptocurrency into Colombian pesos and deposited it into Colombian bank accounts.
Cryptocurrencies are increasingly being used to finance and carry out criminal activities, police warn.
With the help of Finnish authorities, the police were able to locate the Finland-based bitcoin exchange, from which they managed to obtain information about the suspects.
“As a result of the operation, the Spanish Guardia Civil carried out eight searches and seized several computers, devices and the equipment used to commit the crimes, such as money bags or money counting machines,” said Europol,
“11 individuals were arrested and 137 are being investigated. The investigation shows that the suspects deposited more than EUR 8 million in cash using 174 bank accounts.”
Photo: Spanish Guardia Civil and Europol
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