20:01 GMT19 April 2021
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    BRUSSELS (Sputnik) - A criminal network that was using cryptocurrencies and credit cards to launder money from drug trafficking, has been neutralized with 11 people arrested and 137 suspects, EU law enforcement agency Europol said on Monday.

    The operation titled Tulipan Blanca was coordinated by Europol and carried out by the Spanish security forces with the support of Finland and the US Homeland Security Department, according to the statement.

    "As a result of the operation the Spanish Guardia Civil carried out eight searches and seized several computers, devices and the equipment used to commit the crimes, such as money bags or money counting machines … The investigation shows that the suspects deposited more than EUR 8 million in cash using 174 bank accounts," the statement read.

    The probe has revealed that the criminals first used cash withdrawals and bank operations to launder money, but later turned to bitcoin as it is much harder to track cryptocurrencies, the agency noted.

    "The police officers were able to find that the local bitcoin exchange was based in Finland and gathered all the information on the suspects held by the cryptocurrency exchange. The criminals used the exchange to convert their illicit proceeds into bitcoins, then change the cryptocurrency into Colombian pesos and deposit it into Colombian bank accounts on the same day," the Europol added.

    The EU law enforcement agency vowed to continue providing its support and experience in the fight against the use of cryptocurrencies for illegal activities, as the issue has recently been on the rise.


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    money laundering, cryptocurrency, criminals, Europol, EU
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