Organization Laundering Money Via Crypto Busted in Spain
A group that was using cryptocurrencies for money laundering activities was recently busted by the Spanish Civil Guard. Operating in Madrid, the organization in question had been offering their services to various criminal organizations. The Spanish Civil Guard referred to the operations as the MAUNA operations and found that they had established phantom companies in various countries, such as Germany, Lithuania, Sweden, Belgium and Spain, which had supported their actions. On February 15th, an announcement from the Spanish Civil Guard disclosed that they had detained a number of people who were connected to an organization that laundered money via the use of crypto and scams.
The Civil Guard’s Central Operative Unit had made a number of inquiries and this investigation had originated because one of the members of the said organization had also been part of one that had been previously investigated. The operation was known as MAUNA, as mentioned above, found that the criminal organization was offering its services to other groups of a similar nature. In fact, it had been acting as a capital hub to launder money. Initially, only a small number of people had carried out the operations and they had been associated with drug trafficking.
However, as the operating continued to grow, the organization decided to change its modus operandi in order to expand further. The crackdown from the Civil Guard in Spain saw eight people getting arrested in nine search operations that had been conducted in Valladolid and Madrid. They blocked about 30 bank accounts, seized around $340,000, and also confiscated nine real estate properties. Furthermore, a number of cold wallets comprised of goods and cryptocurrencies that were valued at more than $1,136,000 had been retrieved as well. As it turns out, the criminal organization was also associated with various phantom companies that were established in different countries of Europe, also mentioned above.
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The US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) had also collaborated with the Spanish Civil Guard in the operation in order to locate some of the funds that had been laundered by the criminal organization. The official report about the entire matter stated that the criminal enterprise had certainly factored in the volatility associated with cryptocurrencies like bitcoin. It stated that the organization protected itself by converting the digital assets into Tether or USDT. This offered them protection from the fluctuation that happens in the value of cryptocurrencies while the funds were being laundered.
Even though money laundering is done in the form of cryptocurrencies is still a small change as opposed to the scale of money laundering operations that involve fiat currencies, statistics from Chainalysis are quite alarming. They show that there has been a 30% increase in these activities in 2021 alone, as opposed to the numbers in 2020. This means that cryptocurrencies were used for laundering a whopping $8.6 billion. As far as fiat methods are concerned, they have been used for laundering anywhere between $800 billion and $2 trillion, which is quite massive. Regardless, the use of cryptocurrency for laundering money is not going to sit well with many crypto opponents.
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