Digital currencies such as Bitcoin are enabling individual criminals, who come together on an ad-hoc basis, to boost the “crime-as-a-service” business model. The newly-released Europol report titled, ‘Exploring Tomorrow’s Organised Crime’, states:
“Virtual currencies increasingly enable individuals to act as freelance criminal entrepreneurs operating on a crime-as-a-service business model without the need for a sophisticated criminal infrastructure to receive and launder money.”
The research, aimed at identifying the key trends in the EU criminal landscape, revealed that such developments which have until recently remained limited to the cyber crime space will extend to traditional organized crime such as drugs trafficking, illegal immigration and counterfeiting of products.
However, the research should come as no major surprise given the claims that the barbaric terrorist organization ISIS is using Bitcoin for money laundering and recruitment purposes. The Jihadi group has been repeatedly pushing its supporters to use Bitcoin for fundraising activities as the process is anonymous and tracking is impossible. This makes it even more complicated for the law enforcement authorities to restrict the transactions.
Europol’s EC3 cyber crime center had earlier described in length how Bitcoin was being used to pay for live-streams of child sex.
This report also brings forth one important consideration: As the Bitcoin community continues to expand and more businesses accept it as a payment method, it will become impossible to even gauge the extent of the digital money circulating in the criminal landscape. The only possible solution to this mess is the regulation of the cryptocurrency by national regulatory bodies. In the absence of any regulatory framework, the freelance criminal entrepreneurs will continue unabated with their anti-national motives and their activities may see an unprecedented rise over the years.
Europol experts worked in close cooperation with experts from the private and public sectors, academia, and the European law enforcement authorities to construct this report.