Criminal behavior has been going on since man hid hunted rabbits under rocks. No one has ever blamed a rabbit for a crime of theft. People have been stealing gold for thousands of years, and never an eye is raised against the precious metal. No currency has ever been used for more crime in the history of the world than the U.S. Dollar, yet there seems to be no blood on its hands. Today, the few crimes taking place involving Bitcoin are often used as a rallying cry against the very existence of the digital currency. Europol and authorities in the Netherlands have both recently seen criminals do crimes for, or with, Bitcoin, making news in the mainstream.
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A money laundering ring built around an online drug trade from “The Dark Web” while using Bitcoin was snuffed out by Dutch authorities. Ten men were arrested in connection with trying to launder as much as 2o million Euros in proceeds from an online drug dealing business. A high percentage of deals done on “The Dark Web”, an uncharted portion of the Internet not indexed by Google and other “Surface Web” search engines, using Bitcoin for its transaction speed and ease of use. An undisclosed amount of Bitcoins was also seized by authorities. This investigation included law enforcement from the United States, Morocco, Lithuania and Australia, in addition to Dutch officials.
Officials also successfully thwarted another cyber-criminal unit in Europe; the band of hackers known as DD4BC. DD4BC attacks businesses and with Distributed Denial of Service attacks that disable computer systems to extort Bitcoin as ransom. Their trail of cyber terror brought law enforcement from many countries as well, including German, Bosnia, the United Kingdom, Japan, and others.
“As Bitcoin was the payment system exploited by the cybercriminal group to receive the ransom payments, it played a role,” said an Interpol representative in a statement about the investigation. “However there were many other elements in this investigation.”Bitcoin and other crypto-currencies are playing an increasing role in all criminal activities, not only cybercrime. EC3 cooperates with law enforcement, the private sector and academia to find suitable solutions to tackle this phenomenon.”
A couple of key inferences can be gleaned from these developments. Firstly, law enforcement is becoming fairly adept at tracking cyber-criminal activity, whether Bitcoin is used or not. Uniformed mainstream media have been known to paint the picture that Bitcoin is a great way to steal funds, launder money, or fund terrorism. This may be a form of financing being tested by the criminal underworld, but that would be a fairly stupid way to work a criminal enterprise. Bitcoin is a public ledger, and if up to 20 million euros are moving on the Bitcoin blockchain, this will be hard to hide from discovery. Countries around the world are comparing notes and working together to fight this form of crime and are finding a good amount of success for a reason.
Also, remember that people have been extorting people for gold, U.S. Dollars, precious paintings, kidnappings, and other crimes that leverage anything of value. This proves that Bitcoin is indeed valuable enough for a criminal to risk their freedom for, but should not be singled out as somehow criminal in itself. Bitcoin is no more criminal in nature than a car used to detonate a car bomb in the Middle East.
Crimes will go on with Bitcoin both now, and in the future, just as they will for other items of perceived value. However, Bitcoin criminal activity will forever be dwarfed by the crimes related to established values like U.S. Dollars. Crime isn’t going anywhere, and neither is Bitcoin. Plus, it’s publicly traded design is a transparent form of protection that is an enhancement in the serving of the public trust. Not only is it a better-designed, digital exchange of value, but it comes with a security system, virtually free of charge. The only crime may be neglecting to use it in the future.