The arrests were made by Spanish police, with some help from Europol. Although eight were arrested, eight more were charged for their involvement in the ring. Seven homes were searched, and eleven vehicles, two crypto ATMs, dozens of marijuana plants, devices, and jewels were seized as a result of the investigation. Cryptocurrency wallets were also seized, and bank accounts were frozen. There was a total of over $10 million credited to four cold wallets and 20 hot wallets, proving that the operation was a significant one.
The organization managed a crypto exchange business, where money was deposited into various crypto ATMs and transformed into cryptocurrency. The organization also used a technique called “smurfing”, where illicit money was split into smaller sums in order to evade detection from law enforcement and financial institutions.
The operation was a follow-up to a previous operation called Operation Guatuzo that was carried out last year. Europol was involved with the Spanish Civil Guard and National Police of Colombia in taking down a crime ring involved in drug trafficking and money laundering.
Europol was involved in exchanging information with other law enforcement agencies in order to find out more about the criminal organization. Europol experts headed to Spain on the “action day” for additional support, including cross-checking data gathered by Europol databases to provide additional context.
This isn’t the first time that Europol has helped get to the bottom of high-profile cryptocurrency crime. Europol helped track down a 36 year-old individual who allegedly stole approximately 10 million euros in cryptocurrency from various victims in January 2019. Europol has also previously warned about the rising threats of bad actors in the cryptocurrency space last year.
Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (SegWit) chain are referenced as BTC coins; tokens on the Bitcoin Cash ABC chain are referenced as BCH, BCH-ABC or BAB coins.
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