Police in London have uncovered a massive stash of allegedly laundered money hidden inside a suspected criminal enterprise.
The Met’s Economic Crime Command seized £114 million ($A209 million) in digital currency after receiving a tip-off about the transfer of criminal assets.
The bust is the largest recorded in UK history, and is believed to be one of the biggest wins globally in the fight against money laundering via cryptocurrency.
Police are currently refusing to disclose the type of cryptocurrency that made up the nine-figure sum seized.
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Since their inception in 2008, cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin have been favoured among criminals as a method of anonymously moving money. Dark web markets offering everything from guns, drugs and hit men routinely sprout up and vanish, often trading cryptocurrency in the millions for their illicit goods and services.
However, law enforcement has begun finding ways around the complex online assets as the phenomenon slowly becomes mainstream.
In this particular case, Detective Constable Joe Ryan believes the seized asset was being laundered, cleaning vast amounts of cash coming from crime on London’s streets.
“Criminals need to legitimise their money otherwise it risks being seized by law enforcement,” Detective Constable Joe Ryan said.
“The proceeds of crime are almost always laundered to hide the origin, but by disrupting the flow of funds before they are reinvested, we can make London an incredibly difficult place for criminals to operate.”
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Graham McNulty said the Metropolitan Police’s main goal was to stem the violence caused by crime in London, pointing to the bloody trail dirty money tends to leave.
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“Every single part of the Met is working to reduce violence on the streets of London as an absolute priority, this includes our financial investigators,” Commissioner McNulty told local press.
“Violence is used to extort, blackmail, burgle, control and exploit. It’s used to protect criminal profits and maintain control of territories.”
Despite the eye-watering haul, McNulty says the real enemy is still hard cash, revealing investigators helped seize more than £47 million (A$87 million) in the fiscal year of 2020-2021.
“This cash can no longer be reinvested in crime, it cannot be used to buy and peddle drugs and weapons, and cannot be used to entice and exploit young and vulnerable people into criminality,” Commissioner McNulty said.
UK police announced their biggest-ever cash seizure in May this year, stopping a criminal “struggling to carry holdalls brimming with money” in the street. Officials later found roughly $9 million in cash stacked up in a flat in West London.
The accused money laundering gang allegedly “didn’t know what to do” with the insane amounts of cash piling up at their residences in lockdown.
While Commissioner McNulty still declares “cash remains king”, this week’s crypto haul still doubles the amount of fiat cash confiscated by the department in the previous year.
Currently, the largest single cryptocurrency bust on record sits at $1 billion, when the US Government dismantled dark web marketplace Silk Road in 2013.
The Silk Road website was used by several thousand drug dealers to distribute hundreds of kilograms of heroin, cocaine, LSD and other illegal drugs and illicit goods to more than 100,000 buyers around the world over the past two and a half years.
San Francisco-based owner Ross William Ulbricht, known by the alias Dread Pirate Roberts, was known as the primary moderator of the website‘s discussion forums.
He is currently serving his two life sentences without parole in a maximum-security federal penitentiary in Tucson, Arizona.