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16 January 2017

Digital currencies and money laundering focus of INTERPOL meeting

DOHA, Qatar – The threats posed by transnational criminal networks exploiting digital currencies for money laundering and terrorism financing are high on the agenda of an INTERPOL meeting in Qatar.

The first Global Conference on Money Laundering and Digital Currencies – organized by INTERPOL, Europol and the Basel Institute on Governance, with the collaboration of the Qatar National Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing Committee – has brought together some 400 participants from law enforcement and private industry in 60 countries to discuss the risks associated with digital currencies, such as Bitcoin, and how police can address these types of crimes through a global approach.

Opening the three-day (16-18 January) meeting, Sheikh Fahad Faisal Al-Thani, Chairman of the Qatar National Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing Committee, commended the efforts to enhance the practical understanding of the use of digital currencies in money laundering, and at building capacities in the detection, investigation and recovery of proceeds of crime stored in a digital form.

INTERPOL’s Executive Director of Police Services Tim Morris highlighted the importance of a global, cross-sectoral approach in ensuring digital currencies are not exploited by criminal enterprises.

“Digital currencies are not constrained by national regulations or borders, therefore cooperation in fighting against criminal uses of digital currencies must also transcend borders and integrate solutions from both law enforcement and the private sector,” said Mr Morris.

With digital currencies increasingly used to finance criminal activities including terrorism, INTERPOL’s Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes unit has produced a report on the vulnerabilities of digital currencies for money laundering and the challenges this poses for law enforcement.

Through the INTERPOL Global Complex for Innovation in Singapore, several projects related to the use of digital currencies such as Bitcoin for criminal purposes are being undertaken in partnership with law enforcement, international organizations and the private sector. These include projects on Bitcoin laundering and Blockchain analytics, in order to strengthen member countries’ capabilities in this field.

In addition, INTERPOL has conducted specialized training to assist law enforcement in identifying organized crime networks within the Darknet and their use of digital currencies.

The conference in Doha is the first such event coordinated by the Working Group on Digital Currencies established in September 2016 by INTERPOL, Europol and the Basel Institute on Governance to gather and analyse information on the use of digital currencies by criminals as a means of laundering money and develop strategies for the investigation and recovery of digital criminal proceeds.