It’s not uncommon for the words “bitcoin” and “laundering” to appear in the same news story.
But what is a little more eye-catching is when a ring of 10 men have been nabbed by Dutch prosecutors on charges stemming from their alleged involvement in online drug deals that involved using one familiar-sounding digital currency.
You guessed it. Bitcoin.
As reported by Reuters, Dutch prosecutors released information about the suspects — all in their 20s — who were arrested after authorities conducted raids in 15 locations in the Netherlands. Authorities seized $16 million to $22 million (€15 million to €20 million) from these alleged bitcoin launderers, who are accused of selling drugs on Dark Web online marketplaces.
Hmm….sound familiar, again? Hint, hint. Ross Ulbricht and his now-defunct underground bitcoin-funded online illegal drug marketplace, Silk Road. Similar to the Silk Road case, this new one on the books is getting bitcoin tied back into crimes that have many questioning the legitimacy of the digital currency.
Bitcoin, of course, has surfaced as the currency of choice for many criminals due to the unregulated and somewhat untraceable nature of the currency. But, as proved in Ulbricht’s case, bitcoin isn’t so untraceable — but it is difficult to track.
The investigation in the Dutch case is still underway, but authorities did reveal that they collected drugs, luxury cars, cash, bank accounts and other goods. The case was conducted in collaboration with authorities from the U.S., Australia, Lithuania and Morocco. One local media account said the men were found because large amounts of cash were frequently being put into bank accounts and then withdrawn from ATMs.