How the 21st century Al Capone laundered his money? Online of course! Scientist Rolf van Wegberg of TU Delft investigated how to do this with bitcoins. Criminals apply a digital exchange trick, among other things.
Those who launder bitcoins should be careful. That is the New Year’s message from the Public Prosecution Service. Het Financieele Dagblad reports that the Public Prosecutor’s Office is fighting this kind of illegal practice around bitcoins. At least three criminal cases will be brought to trial this year. According to the Public Prosecution Service, money has been laundered for millions of euros. NEMO Kennislink previously wrote extensively in this article about how criminals do this.
There you are as a criminal with all those bitcoins, the electronic payment method. You’ve just set up a lively drug store on the dark, a part of the internet where you surf anonymously and it is extremely difficult to be traced. Customers leave excellent reviews about the quality and fast delivery of your pills and it is storming. The bitcoins are pouring in.
And then? It is unwise to simply exchange them for euros. The police immediately notices this. “Of course you can buy anything and everything online with the electronic payment method. It is even possible to purchase houses with it. But a criminal will never do that, because the police will quickly track you down. Moreover, successful criminals often receive more money than they can spend, ”says Rolf van Wegberg, as a cyber crime researcher at TU Delft and TNO.
Many crooks on the dark net therefore choose to launder their black bitcoins. Just like, for example, the infamous mafia boss Al Capone did with his black money. He washed the white by setting up a chain of laundromats, which is where the term money laundering comes from. Capone made a lot of money from his illegal (drink) trade. Washing machines were always on at Capone’s laundromats. That way, he could claim to have a lot of patronage, essentially pumping his own money into his laundromats and neatly paying taxes on the “profit” he made. His black money had thus turned white. “It is certain that criminals launder bitcoins online, but we do not yet know how many there are,” says Van Wegberg. A few were recently caught in the Netherlands. Lawsuits against these suspects are now being prepared. Van Wegberg followed in the footsteps of the criminals and tried to do the same as they do: money laundering bitcoins.
Remarkably enough, you can already check which road bitcoins have traveled. This is due to the so-called blockchain of the electronic payment method. Simply put, that is a kind of public cash book that everyone can see, so you can check where the bitcoins have been.
“That makes criminals vulnerable,” says Van Wegberg. You can use bitcoins completely anonymously. But what if a crook made a mistake and left an email address? Or that someone else reveals the criminal’s identity? Then the police can trace the bitcoins, ”says Van Wegberg.
Understandably, this makes criminals nervous. “That is why a solution has just been devised on the dark: the so-called bitcoin mixer. That is a kind of virtual grab bag. Several criminals throw in their bitcoins. Then they get randomly at least others in return. ”
They are probably also earned from criminal activities. Otherwise you don’t use this grab bag so quickly. “But they are not earned from your own business. And so you can always in good conscience deny that you had anything to do with how these “new” bitcoins were earned. If you have a business in Apeldoorn and your bitcoins from the mixer come from Italy, then you almost always have an alibi. The electronic money can still be traced, but no longer to your trade. ”