Cryptocurrency crime: preventing the misuse of virtual assets by organized crime for money laundering

9 December 2021
A global conference to boost investigation, detection and disruption of networks behind virtual assets based money laundering

LYON, France – A global online virtual assets conference has concluded with a call to protect the world’s financial systems by increasing multi-sector cooperation to strengthen cryptocurrency crime investigations.

Co-organized by INTERPOL, Europol and the Basel Institute on Governance, the 5th Global Conference on Criminal Finances and Cryptocurrencies was hosted virtually by the Basel Institute.

The two-day (7-8 December) event brought more than 3,000 people from law enforcement, public and private sectors, policy institutions and academia from 130 countries under a virtual roof to explore trends, strategies and tactics in tackling crimes involving virtual assets.

With blockchain, bitcoin and other virtual currencies permitting swift, anonymous financial transfers to anywhere in the world, delegates focused on developing law enforcement tools, skillsets, knowledge and resources to prevent such technologies being used to launder illegally gained assets.

Discussions highlighted the fast-evolving fields of decentralized finance and non-fungible tokens (NFTs), regulatory developments affecting anti-money laundering compliance, crypto-enabled fraud and the possibilities that governments have to recover illicit assets even if they are virtual.

A new normal

On the second day of the conference, which was restricted to law enforcement circles, speakers shared their experiences in national and regional cryptocurrency investigations, demonstrating new methodologies for exploring criminal flows and operations in dark markets and decentralized money laundering scams.

Discussion panels highlighted the fundamental importance of a clear, harmonized regulatory global framework to prevent money laundering.

The conferences closed with the endorsement of a set of recommendations to strengthen skillsets, improve knowledge, boost expertise and encourage best practices for improved illegal assets investigations

“Cryptocurrencies are changing the landscape of the criminal underworld, and we need to work together to prevent virtual assets from becoming safe havens for illegal financial transactions,” said Ilana de Wild, INTERPOL’s Director of Organized and Emerging Crime.  

 “Protecting citizens and the global economy from the abuse of cryptocurrencies and other virtual assets is a task that requires concerted and sustained action by law enforcement working hand in hand with government authorities, regulators and the private sector, which is why this kind of global, multi-sector event is key to global security”  added Director de Wild.

The annual conference is organized by the Working Group on Criminal Finances and Cryptocurrencies, a tripartite initiative of the Basel Institute on Governance, INTERPOL and Europol established in 2016.

INTERPOL is strengthening the support services it provides to police forces in its 195 member countries to boost their national efforts to tackle financial crime with the creation of a new Financial Crimes Directorate in January 2022.